Islamic State

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.

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.

‘A man was dying in a pool of his own blood’: Heroes and tragedy as details emerge from Kosher supermarket attack

GABRIELLE CHATELAIN/AFP/Getty Images

He was the hostage who tried to be a hero. As terror reigned inside the Hyper Cacher supermarket, one captive displayed astonishing courage by trying to tackle Amedy Coulibaly, the terrorist holding innocent shoppers and store workers at gunpoint.

Coulibaly had left one of his weapons on a shop counter but remained armed with at least one Kalashnikov rifle. One of the hostages, a customer at the kosher supermarket, made a grab for the gun, lifted it off the counter and aimed it at Coulibaly, whose back was turned. What the hostage had not realised was that Coulibaly had discarded the firearm because it had stopped working in the moments after he had fired it off and taken control of the shop.

The hostage squeezed the trigger but the gun jammed once more. Coulibaly turned around and fired at the man. He died on the spot.

The victim was one of four people murdered in the Hyper Cacher by Coulibaly, a 32-year-old jihadist who had sworn allegiance to the Islamic State. The victims were named yesterday by the French Board of Jewish Deputies as Yoav Hattab, Philippe Braham, Yohan Cohen and Francois-Michel Saada.

GABRIELLE CHATELAIN/AFP/Getty ImagesA screengrab taken from an AFP TV video shows members of the French police special forces launching the assault at a kosher grocery store in Porte de Vincennes, eastern Paris, on January 9, 2015 where at least two people were shot dead on January 9 during a hostage-taking drama at a Jewish supermarket in eastern Paris, and five people were being held, official sources told AFP.

A day earlier Coulibaly had killed a policewoman in cold blood, laid low for 24 hours and then stormed the supermarket in Porte de Vincennes in the east of Paris. Details emerged last night through eyewitness accounts and through video and audio footage of the hostage crisis as it unfolded, culminating in its bloody finale.

One of the survivors, Mickael B – he declined to give his full name – told how he had embarked on a routine trip to the shops with his three-year-old son for bread and kosher chicken when he became embroiled in the siege. He was later photographed clutching his son, fleeing from the supermarket at the end of the siege. But before that he and other captives had to endure hours of terror.

“I was heading for the check-out with the goods in my hand when I heard a bang – very loud. I thought it was a firecracker at first. But turning I saw a black man armed with two Kalashnikov rifles and I knew something bad was happening,” said Mickael B.

“I grabbed my son by the collar and fled to the back of the store. There, with other customers, we ran down a spiral staircase into the basement. We all piled into one of two cold rooms – our door wouldn’t close. We were terrified.”

French police

French policeAmedy Coulibaly was killed Friday after seizing hostages in a Jewish supermarket in Paris.

They were led to the refuge by store worker Lassana Bathily, a 24-year-old Muslim from Mali. His actions saved many lives. Among the 15 or so hostages taken down the spiral staircase were three children with their parents. “When they ran down, I opened the door [of the freezer],” said Mr Bathily, “There are several people who have come to me. I turned off the light, I turned off the freezer. I closed the door. I told them: ‘Stay calm here. I’m going out.’” One of the trapped hostages joked with him: “We’ll open a bottle of wine. Here, there are plenty.”

Using a goods lift Bathily escaped and was able to give the police valuable information about what was happening inside and where the hostages were hiding.

Mickael B had chosen the wrong cold room to hide in. While about 15 survivors hid in the cold room next door, its door shut tight and the lights switched off, Mickael B and other captives were quickly discovered.

“A store employee was sent down by the killer. She said he had said we were to go back up otherwise there’d be carnage. I refused to go up,” said Mickael B. “By now my son, understanding nothing, was panicking. Then minutes later the employee comes back down with the same message. This time I decided to follow her up the spiral staircase.

“At the top, a man was dying in a pool of his own blood. The terrorist introduced himself to us. He was strangely calm. ‘I am Amedi Coulibaly, Malian and Muslim. I belong to the Islamic State,’he told us.”

The hostages were ordered to put down their mobile phones. Each in turn was then made to state their name, profession and origin. Coulibaly then launched into a rant, justifying his actions in support of his “brothers” in Syria and in French prisons.

Mickael B told of the dramatic moment when a fellow hostage attempted to fight back. “Suddenly one of the customers tried to grab one of his guns which he’d left on the counter. It wasn’t working. The terrorist had put it there because it had blocked after the first shots,” Mickael told Le Point magazine. “He turned and shot at the customer, who died on the spot.”

ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images

ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty ImagesThe French police forces taking position Friday by the kosher grocery store in Saint-Mande, near Porte de Vincennes, eastern Paris.

Mickael was ordered by Coulibaly, guns in his hands, to switch on his phone and to call the media. Mickael B’s son began crying, calling the terrorist a “bad man.” After calls were made to the press — in one conversation Coulibaly confirmed he had killed a policewoman the previous day and admitted he was working with the brothers who had targeted Charlie Hebdo magazine — Mickael B discreetly switched his telephone back on and called the police.

Coulibaly, meanwhile, began to pace the supermarket, prowling up and down the aisles. In a bizarre rant, recorded by journalists on a phone that had remained switched on, Coulibaly could be heard railing against the French state and mocking his hostages for paying taxes.

“They must stop attacking the Islamic State, stop unveiling our women, stop putting our brothers in prison for nothing at all,” he said. “It is you [the hostages] who is financing [the government]. You pay taxes.” At that point, a hostage replied: “We are obliged to [pay taxes].” Coulibaly responded: “You do not have to. I do not pay taxes.”

Downstairs in the cold room, hostages huddled in silence and in the dark, listening for telltale noises above.

Among them was Sarah Bitton, a 20-year-old Belgian mother hiding with her 11-month-old baby. She was later photographed fleeing the scene with tears of joy in her eyes. She had feared her child might die from hypothermia and wrapped her tight to keep her warm.

“The mother is happy and relieved. The baby did not suffer from hypothermia following his period in the cold store. Both mother and baby are doing well,” a source said later.

ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty Images

ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/Getty ImagesA forensic police officer works next to the bullet-riddled windows of the Hyper Casher kosher grocery store near Porte de Vincennes in eastern Paris on January 9, 2015 after police launched an assault killing the gunman holed up in the market and freeing the hostages.

Another parent with his child hiding in the cold room was a man yesterday identified only as Ilan. He quickly removed his jacket and wrapped his son in it to protect the toddler from the freezing temperatures. Hidden in the cold, they and the other hostages remained in the refrigerator for nearly five hours.

Meanwhile, Ilan’s mother realised her son and grandson were hidden and decided not to try to contact them, even by text. Instead she gave Ilan’s mobile phone number to police, who were able to use it to track the location of the man, his son and the other hostages inside the store. According to Francois Molins, chief Paris prosecutor, prosecutor, this knowledge may have contributed to their survival when police finally stormed the store and killed Coulibaly.

Back on the shop floor, the crisis was coming to a dramatic conclusion.

Mickael B was by now in dialogue with police on the other end of the phone.

“A policeman told me that we should be ready to throw ourselves flat on the ground when the assault came, which would be soon,” he said yesterday, “It was obvious that the terrorist was preparing to die. He said it was his reward. He had a weapon in each hand and boxes of cartridges nearby. He suddenly began to pray.

“My mobile was still on. The police had heard it all. Minutes later the shop grille was lifted. We knew it was the start of the assault.”

Television footage broadcast by the French channel TV2 showed about 30 armed police gathering outside the Hyper Cacher door. The metal shutters began to open, revealing, almost in slow motion, the carnage within.

The camera then captured the moment flash grenades were thrown in before a single, courageous policeman stormed in through the entrance. The body of a hostage was seen lying on the floor just inside; other police standing back firing from the threshold.

Part-way through the two-minute long video footage, a figure came charging out of the smoke-filled supermarket and towards the entrance. At least one police officer to the right of the doorway raised his pistol and the man, presumed to be Coulibaly, collapsed.

At this point the video stopped abruptly and then resumed as relieved hostages poured out the doors to freedom.

Inside the supermarket the lives of Mickael B, his son and the other hostages had been saved.

“We flung ourselves to the ground,” said Mickael B, “The noise was deafening. He was dead. It was over.”

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0_vb5xg6uyIsraelis, mostly French Jews gather to pay tribute to victims of the attack on kosher grocery store in Paris where four hostages were killed on Friday, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015.

A photograph showing a corpse just inside the door is possibly the body of Coulibaly. Outside, survviors thanked Lassana Bathily. “They congratulated me,” he said with modest understatement. Last night the process began of mourning the hostages Coulibaly had needlessly murdered. It is not yet known which was the heroic captive who had tried to stand up to the killer.

Among the dead was Yoav Hattab, just 22. The son of the distinguished chief rabbi of Tunis, Rabbi Betto Hattab, he was described by friends as a “respectful” and “well-mannered” student. One friend, Hichem Boussetta, posted on Facebook: “This could have happened to all of us! Yoav Hattab fell because of stupidity and blindness.”

Another called Badis tweeted: “He was someone unique. Very well mannered, respectful of other religions. Proud to be Tunisian and proud of his religion. RIP.”

A neighbour of Philippe Braham, a college professor and father of four, mourned his passing. “He is a very courteous, discreet man who always says good morning as we pass. This is so shocking.”

Amid the wreckage and the corpses in the supermarket, police were to discover that Coulibaly had come preapred and armed for a long fight, having fortified the shop with booby traps to repel police special forces.

He fired on police with a Kalashnikov assault rifle and a “Skorpion” military pistol. After he was shot dead, police later found two Russian-made Tokarev pistols, two machine guns, a bullet-proof vest and ammunition in the kosher supermarket. Mr Molins, chief Paris prosecutor, said the supermarket had been rigged with 15 explosive sticks and one detonator.

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.”’