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Saturday, 5 December 2015

NEWS: US - San Bernardino attack: US 'will not be terrorised' - Obama



President Barack Obama says the US "will not be terrorised" by Wednesday's mass shootings in San Bernardino, California.

"We are strong. And we are resilient," he said in his weekly radio address, adding that it was "entirely possible" the two attackers had been radicalised.

Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and his wife Tashfeen Malik, 29, killed 14 people before being shot dead by police.

The FBI is investigating the shootings as an "act of terrorism".

The Islamic State militant group on Saturday hailed the attack, saying it had been carried out by "two supporters of the Islamic State".


The statement, carried by IS's al-Bayan radio, gave no indication that the group had any involvement in planning the shootings at the Inland Regional Center social services agency.
"We know that Isil [IS] and other terrorist groups are actively encouraging people - around the world and in our country - to commit terrible acts of violence, oftentimes as lone wolf actors," Mr Obama said in his address.

"All of us - government, law enforcement, communities, faith leaders - need to work together to prevent people from falling victim to these hateful ideologies."

Farook, who worked for the local health department, and Malik opened fire on an office Christmas party, killing 14 people and wounding 21.

FBI officers are trying to recover data from two mobile phones that were found crushed in a waste bin near the scene.

On Friday lawyers representing the attackers' family said the relatives were "in complete shock" and that they had no idea the two had been capable of such an attack.

Syed Rizwan Farook's sister, Saira Khan, told CBS News: "I can never imagine my brother or my sister-in-law doing something like this, especially because they were happily married, they had a beautiful six-month-old daughter."

Tashfeen Malik was born in Pakistan and lived for 20 years in Saudi Arabia before moving back to her native country to go to university.

She and Farook, a US national, met on Muslim dating websites, the New York Times quotes officials as saying. The new couple spent about a week in Saudi Arabia last year, before returning to the US together.

She was granted a visa allowing people to enter the US to marry American citizens. Mr Chesley said Malik was very conservative. She did not interact with male family members and wore a burka, he said.

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PHOTONEWS: Here we have the first Nigerian couple to attain same senior rank level in the Army



Brigadier General Cecilia U. Akagu (front) and Brigadier Gen. Clifford B. Wanda (husband) are Nigeria’s first married army officers to attain the same rank.

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NEWS: CHAD - 27 feared dead in multiple suicide attack in Lake Chad


27 people are feared dead after three suicide bombers attacked the island of Koulfoua on Lake Chad this afternoon.

No militant group has claimed responsibility yet. 

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NEWS: NIGERIA - President Buhari's foreign trips not frivolous - Lai Mohammed (Information Minister)



According to the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, President Buhari's foreign trips since assuming office are not frivolous but are critical to the implementation of his administration's key policies of enhancing security, jump-starting the economy, creating jobs and fighting corruption.

In a statement issued on Friday December 4th in Abuja, the Minister said all the trips have been anything but frivolous, and that they have started yielding fruits in terms of turning the tide in the fight against the insurgents who have been most active in the North-east, attracting investments in the range of billions of dollars, and securing global support for the administration's anti-corruption fight.


''Nigerians, whether in the ruling or the opposition parties, have a right to ask questions about the activities of their President, but it is absolutely important that they do so from an informed, rather than partisan or sensational, standpoint,'' he said. Lai Mohammed explained that most of Buhari's trips to Nigeria's neighbouring countries of Benin, Cameroon, Chad and Niger, as well as to Germany, the US, France and the UN, were devoted to rallying regional and global support for the war against terrorism ''He was in Germany at the invitation of the G7 to solicit support from the Industrialized Nations for the war against terrorism. No one who has witnessed the killings and maiming in the past seven years by Boko Haram will call such trips frivolous. After all, the security and welfare of the citizens are the reason for the existence of any government. 'The

President's visit to South Africa was to attend the regular summit of the African Union; the trip to Ghana was aimed at fostering better relations with a brotherly country; the trip to India was for the India-Africa summit that provided the opportunity to explore ways of enhancing Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) from Indian investors, while the trip to Iran was to attend the forum of Gas Exporting Countries, a veritable platform for discussing how to better harness Nigeria's abundant gas resources for industrial/domestic consumption and export, at a time of dwindling oil prices. 'The President also travelled to Malta to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, from where he travelled to Paris for the UN Conference on Climate Change. The President's second trip to South Africa since assuming office is for the China-Africa forum. On the few occasions that the President has embarked on a State Visit, he has tied that to an agenda that will further the quest for support for the war against terror and the efforts to enhance FDIs, thus stimulating economic growth and creating jobs,''he said. 


Lai Mohammed added that apart from rallying global support for the country's wars on terror and graft or seeking foreign investments, it is important that Nigeria leverages President Buhari's brand, a high integrity quotient and an embodiment of committed and dedicated leadership, to further Nigeria's relevance and visibility on the global stage.
''President Buhari is well respected on the global stage for his high integrity, his transparency, his patriotism and his purposeful leadership. It is important to leverage this respect in such a way that Nigeria can become a major player, either in the realms of economy or global diplomacy,''.
He said the President had embarked on the trips under a very stringent budget, cutting his delegations to numbers far below what his predecessors used to travel with, while even the trimmed entourage had received reduced allowances on the occasions that the host governments have provided accommodation and feeding.

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NEWS: NIGERIA - Bayelsa Polls: 4 killed in Southern Ijaw as ex-militant, others open fire on LG




The governorship election in Bayelsa state has opened on a bloody note with four persons already gunned down. In Oporoma. headquarters of Southern Ijaw, some ex-militants as early as 6:00 am allegedly led thugs to open fire on the LG to disrupt the distribution of election materials.

The sporadic gunshots led to the death of four peoples as JTF tried to repel the rampaging armed thugs.

An eye witness confirmed that gunshots still rents the air as the JTF called for reinforcement.
Similar gunshots just coming from Brass says that PDP supporters are currently being attacked with guns and machetes.

The people are calling on security agencies to deploy more of their men to the area.

Also in Nembe Bassambri, reports of deadly attacks by thugs aided by the military and policemen is currently going on.

A member of Bayelsa State House of Assembly, Princess Ingo Iwowari was attacked and stripped of all her belongings,min lauding personal cash.

"The security operatives should as a matter of urgency deploy more of their men to the area" a resident pleaded. 


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PHOTONEWS: FORMER PRESIDENT JONATHAN, WIFE AND MOM CAST THEIR VOTE IN BAYELSA GOVERNORSHIP ELECTION

Former president Jonathan, his wife Patience Jonathan and his mum in Bayelsa state this morning after completing their accreditation at their polling unit in Otuoke for the governorship election happening today



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NEWS: NIGERIA - SSS uncovers Boko Haram cells in Abuja


Press statement from the State Security Service..
"This is to inform the general public that the Boko Haram terrorist group has continued to establish and operate sleeper cells whose (sole) mandates are to conduct surveillance and carry out subsequent attacks in the FCT. This disclosure has become necessary following the arrests of the sect’s members who migrated from various conflict theaters in the North East to the FCT in order to enable them capitalize on the excitement of the yuletide season to launch attacks in the city.

For instance, on October 29th, 2015, the duo of Muhammed Hassan Idris (a Nigerien) and Baba Abdul Maina were arrested at Panteka area of Apo, Abuja. This was followed by the arrest of Sanni Mohammed (aka Kakase) and Ahmed Umaru (aka Mallam; Mallam Hamdi Garne; Ahmed Daubi) in Lafia, Nasarawa State. Sanni, who hails from Potiskum, Yobe State, fled the area following his involvement in coordinated suicide attacks in Yobe, Plateau, Kano and Kaduna States.
In a related development, on 19th November 2015, Mohammed Shiwar ABUBAKAR and Musa TA’ADA were arrested at Shoprite Junction, Apo, Abuja. ABUBAKAR hails from Borno State and operates as a taxi driver in Abuja. He is of an unknown address but claims that he sleeps in his Volkswagen Golf car at the Honda line, Apo mechanic village, Abuja. The Gwoza-born TA’ADA also operates under the cover of a suya seller at Apo Primary School along Kabusa Road, Abuja. Still, on 23rd November, 2015, one Ahmed HASSAN was arrested while carrying out surveillance on a high-profile hotel in the city.

He hails from Katagum, Bauchi State. Suspect admitted using the cover of a beggar to sustain surveillance on his targets. Bulama Ali, had previously been arrested in Karu, Nasarawa State, on 22nd November, 2015. Similarly, on 1st December, 2015, Hassan Abubakar and Mohammed Gwale Mohammed were arrested at Madalla, in Suleja LGA of Niger State following intelligence that they were planning to commence attacks in the FCT after a successful surveillance of the city. Before his arrest, Abubakar was working with other sect members in different parts of the country notably Borno, Yobe, Taraba and Adamawa States. Abubakar was arrested in the house of Mohammed GWALE who claims to be a Federal Civil Servant from Niger State.

He (Gwale) has made useful statements which are helping with further investigation. So far, preliminary investigations reveal that the suspects and others still at large may have adopted their respective trades as plausible covers to infiltrate the city and its environs in their bid to conduct successful surveillance and map out soft targets for the sect’s attacks. The DSS’ operations are, therefore, aimed at preempting any attacks by the terrorist elements against the backdrop of the upcoming festive period and beyond.

 It is in this regard that the Service wishes to advise residents and all law abiding Nigerians to remain vigilant especially at this yuletide season and promptly report to security agencies any suspicious movements and persons in the FCT and even other parts of the country. The Service also assures the general public that it will continue to carry out its responsibility of ensuring peace and security in Abuja and beyond.

Tony OPUIYO
Department of State Services Abuja. 


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NEWS: NIGERIA - Nigerian Army arrests Boko Haram Chief cameramen and 2 others


Military officers of 28 Task Force Brigade yesterday December 4th, arrested another Boko Haram terrorist suspect, Abdullahi Abubakar Sadiq, believed to be the terrorists Chief Cameraman and suspect number 58 on the list of 100 suspected Boko Haram terrorists wanted list. He was arrested at Uba town, Askira/Uba Local Government Area of Borno State. The troops also arrested two other suspected Boko Haram terrorists along with two other terrorists at at Rumirgo and Kilakasa.

This was revealed in a press statement released today, November 5, and signed by the Acting Director Army Public Relations,Col. Sani Kukasheka Usman. It reads:
"In yet another unprecedented achievement, vigilant troops of 28 Task Force Brigade today arrested another Boko Haram terrorist suspect, Abdullahi Abubakar Sadiq, believed that be the terrorists Chief Cameraman and suspect number 58 on the list of 100 suspected Boko Haram terrorists wanted list. He was arrested at Uba town, Askira/Uba Local Government Area of Borno State. The troops also arrested two other suspected Boko Haram terrorists along with two other terrorists at at Rumirgo and Kilakasa." 

NEWS: NIGERIA - My father never bidded for any arms contract during Jonathan's govt- Dokpesi's son


Raymond Dokpesi Jnr, the son of embattled chairman of DAAR group, Chief Raymond Dokpesi has released a statement distancing his father from the controversial $2.1 billion arms deal scandal.

According to a statement released titled "The Continued Detention of High Chief Raymond Dokpesi by The EFCC on Allegations of Money Laundering" which was signed by him, he said his father was only contracted to develop a Multi Media Strategic Development Support Project to promote and project the achievements and highlight the challenges of former president Jonathan's government. He says in the statement that his father is not a contractor with the Ministry of Defence and does not supply arms. The full text of the statement after the cut...




THE CONTINUED DETENTION OF HIGH CHIEF RAYMOND DOKPESI BY THE EFCC ON ALLEGATIONS OF MONEY LAUNDERING
1. It has become very imperative that following an article published in the Nation Newspaper and reprinted in other online and social media, that we provide more clarification on the current detention without trial of Dr. Raymond Dokpesi by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC in Abuja over allegations of Criminal Conspiracy and Money Laundering.
2. In the first place there is no iota of truth whatsoever that Dr. Dokpesi had a hand in any transaction with the former National Security Adviser regarding the purchase of arms, locally or internationally. This falsehood has become commonplace as his detention is constantly being associated with what has generally become known by the media as the $2.1 Billion US Dollars Arms Deal Scandal.
3. We will like to make it abundantly clear that Dr. Dokpesi's DAAR INVESTMENT & HOLDINGS COMPANY LTD, initiated a proposal to the Presidency of Former President Goodluck Jonathan proposing a Multi Media Strategic Development Support Project to promote and project the achievements and highlight the challenges of his government whilst demystifying false information gleefully circulated by the propaganda machinery of the then opposition party.
4. The proposal was submitted to the Former President in person by Dr. Dokpesi and his team in the presence of the Former Vice President and the Former National Security Adviser at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. We must further emphasize that the proposal had absolutely nothing to do with the Peoples' Democratic Party (PDP), nor the Presidential Campaign Council (PCC).
5. We understand that this proposal was thoroughly studied, approved and paid for by the Presidency through the office of the National Security Adviser which to the best of our knowledge has multiple budgetary sub-heads including for the promotion and propagation of information to sustain and stabilize the government and its administration.
6. We are still at a loss as to why a Federal Government that claims to have been popularly elected only about six months ago, will embark on a wide scale propaganda, misinformation and brazen falsehood just to achieve its objective of decimating its perceived political opponents and supporters of the previous government's administration.
7. High Chief Raymond Dokpesi remains a law abiding and consummate patriot who has served his fatherland to the best of his ability with Zeal, Zest and oftentimes a very infectious sense of patriotism.
8. For the avoidance of doubt, Dr Dokpesi has never applied nor bidded for a contract for the purchase of arms. Nor has he ever been registered with the Ministry of Defence for the similar objective of engaging in the supply of Arms for the Government. Unfolding events will soon prove irrefutably and unlike what fictious stories are being fed to the media as published by The Nation Newspaper on Friday 4th December 2015.
9. We urge the Buhari-led APC Government to rigorously investigate all political and economic crimes thoroughly before embarking on a media trial and sentencing even before the law courts of Nigeria have an opportunity to adjudicate.
10. Our democracy must grow on all fronts but more so under the rule of law which remains the bedrock of any democratic system.
Signed
Raymond Dokpesi Jnr. For the Dokpesi family
 
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PHOTONEWS: Senator Saraki in Paris with other Senators for Conference on Environment

The Nigeria Senate President Bukola Saraki led a delegation from Nigeria's national assembly to the Paris Conference on Environment. The conference started yesterday and will end today 5th December, 2015.








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NEWS: RUSSIA - Russian sculptor creates chocolate sculpture of Putin and his dog






Russian artist Nikita Gusev has created a life-size sculpture of President Vladimir Putin made entirely of chocolate.
Gusev used 70 kilos (154 lbs) of chocolate to make the sculpture that was commissioned by and will be the main attraction at the city’s Chocolate Festival. He also made a chocolate sculpture of Putin's late dog, a Labrador named Connie.



With the sculpture near completion on Thursday, the St. Petersburg-based sculptors had already used more than 70 kilograms of chocolate.

The most difficult part to make was the head, because the head and face are the most recognisable (parts of a person) and if you do those well the body doesn't have to match reality for it to be clear who the sculpture is.
That's why the first part I started in my work was the head, and I spent approximately three days on it.
 After that was finished, I started the body.
– Nikita Gusev, sculptor




The creators expect their creation to be a become a Guinness record. It was originally commissioned by the festival to make a bust of the President, sculptors went one step further and made him life-size.




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FOOTBALL: Terry - Chelsea turned down £29m Man City bid for me



The Blues captain was on the newly-rich club's wishlist, but was given a vote of confidence by the London side's owner

John Terry has revealed that Manchester City offered Chelsea £29 million for his services in 2009, but club owner Roman Abramovich turned down the bid.

The Blues captain was made a prime target shortly after the Abu Dhabi United Group's big-money takeover in Manchester, leading to the centre-back having a serious one-on-one with the Russian supremo.

“Man City offered £29 million for me in 2009 and Chelsea turned it down,” Terry said in an interview with Jamie Carragher for Sportsmail. “I had a meeting with Roman Abramovich about it.

“I said to him: 'if the club accepts the offer then it tells me you don't want me'. So then you haven't got a choice, you have got to go. But if they don't accept the offer, it tells me everything I need to know. Chelsea refused the offer and that was it.”


Now 34, Terry has spent his entire career with the Stamford Bridge side, and quashed any notion of playing for another English club before he retires, but is open to a move to MLS.

“No, no chance [I'd play for another club in England]. America, maybe.

“Do I want to play? Of course I do. Physically I feel like I can still play. But then decisions come into it with your family. What if you go somewhere and it doesn't work out?”


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TECHNOLOGY: Facebook rolls out live streaming video service



Facebook has begun rolling out a new feature on its social network which allows users to stream live video.

A select group of celebrities and high profile users have been able to use the service for several months.

Live streaming via mobile phones has become one of the big technology trends of the year, with Twitter-owned Periscope and Meerkat proving popular.

Last year, Amazon paid $1bn for live streaming game site Twitch.

Initially Facebook's live video feature will be available only to a small percentage of people in the US and will be limited to iPhones.


The tech giant said that "over time, the company plans to bring it to all users" but it did not give specific timescales.

In a blogpost introducing the service, Facebook said: "Live lets you show the people you care about what you're seeing in real time - whether visiting a new place, cooking your favourite recipe or just want to share some thoughts."

The stream will display the number of live viewers, the names of friends who are watching and real-time comments as they are written. The video will be saved to users' timelines until they choose to delete them.

Facebook has also updated the way people can share photo collages - allowing users to mix photos and videos.

Ian Maude, an analyst with research firm Enders said of the streaming service: "Facebook has a vast audience to promote services to so there is nothing stopping it from becoming a significant player in video streaming."

He said that Britain, like many other countries, had become "a nation of sharers".

"We like to tell what what we are doing all the time."

Privacy advocates have raised concerns about such services but Mr Maude believes that Facebook will be keen to avoid any controversy.

"They will be cognisant of the privacy concerns and I believe there are restrictions on how the content can be shared, so that it won't be automatically broadcast to everyone."


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NEWS: UK - San Bernardino attackers' family 'in complete shock'




Lawyers representing the family of the two San Bernardino attackers have said relatives are "in complete shock" over the shooting.

They said the family had no idea Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, were capable of such an attack.

The lawyers warned against jumping to conclusions after the FBI said earlier the attack was being investigated as an "act of terrorism".

Wednesday's mass shooting left 14 people dead and 21 injured.

Tashfeen Malik, 27, and her husband Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, died in a shootout with police after the killings in the southern Californian city, east of Los Angeles.


Lawyers David Chesley and Mohamed Abuershaid said there was no evidence that the couple had extremist views or were members of a militant group.

Syed Rizwan Farook's sister, Saira Khan, told CBS News: "I can never imagine my brother or my sister-in-law doing something like this, especially because they were happily married, they had a beautiful six-month-old daughter,"

Farook is said to have been an isolated individual with few friends and Malik has been described by family as a "caring, soft-spoken" housewife.

Mr Chesley said Malik was very conservative. She did not drive or interact with male family members and wore a burka, he said.

The family was aware that Farook owned two handguns and said co-workers had recently made fun of his beard, the attorneys said.
Front-page editorial

In response to the shooting, the New York Times newspaper ran an editorial calling for stricter gun controls on the front page of Saturday's print paper.

It is the first time since 1920 that the paper has run an editorial on page one.

"It is a moral outrage and national disgrace that civilians can legally purchase weapons designed to kill people with brutal speed and efficiency," the opinion piece said.

"America's elected leaders offer prayers for gun victims and then, callously and without fear of consequence, reject the most basic restrictions on weapons of mass killing," it added.

The paper's publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr said the aim was "to deliver a strong and visible statement of frustration and anguish about our country's inability to come to terms with the scourge of guns".

The bombs and the bomb-making equipment, and the thousands of rounds of ammunition have all been removed, and the tan-coloured townhouse which Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik called home has now returned to normal.

In the early hours of Friday morning the FBI completed their search of the property on this leafy suburban street, and after confiscating notebooks and computers - and even Christmas tree lights - handed the property back to its owner Doyle Miller.

It was he who allowed waiting reporters a peek behind the venetian blinds, and, with it, the hope of some degree of insight into the life of the "clean-cut young man" and his young bride and baby, who never caused problems and always paid their rent on time.

And as we piled across the threshold, transforming a crime scene into a kind of garage sale, we encountered not the remnants of some medieval torture chamber - or even the evidence of a fanatical terrorist cell - but all the trappings of domestic mundanity: powdered baby food in the kitchen, a cot in the upstairs bedroom, nappies, books and tapestries and several copies of the Quran.

And it is that sense of the mundanity that must worry law enforcement officials the most. 


FBI Director James Comey said earlier on Friday the investigation into the shooting was in its early stages and that there was still "a lot of evidence that doesn't make sense".

He said that there were indications that the couple had been radicalised and that they were "potentially inspired" by foreign terror groups.

However, he said there was no evidence they were part of a network.

Earlier, an FBI spokesman said they were also investigating reports that Malik had pledged allegiance to Islamic State (IS).

She is reported to have posted a message on Facebook in support of IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi under a different name. The post has since been removed.

After Wednesday's attack at the Inland Regional Center social services agency, bomb equipment, weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition were found in the couple's home.

FBI spokesman David Bowdich told a news conference that authorities were trying to recover data from two mobile phones found crushed in a waste bin near the shooting scene.

Police said between 75 and 80 people were attending a party at the centre when the shooting began.

The identities of the victims have since been released by San Bernardino's coroner. The youngest was 26 and the oldest was 60.

San Bernardino is the deadliest mass shooting in the US since 26 people were killed at a school in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll on Friday showed that 51% of Americans view Muslims living in the United States the same as any other community, while only 14.6% were generally fearful of them.


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NEWS: RUSSIA - Russia alerts Thailand about potential 'ISIL attacks'




Thai police have received a warning from Russia's state security agency that 10 Syrians linked to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group could stage attacks in Thailand on targets associated with Russia and others opposed to the armed group, officials have said.

National police deputy spokesman Colonel Songpol Wattanachai confirmed on Friday the authenticity of a leaked police memo mentioning the intelligence warning. He told reporters that the information has not been verified.

The police memo - dated November 17 and marked "urgent" and "confidential" - cites Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) warning that the 10 Syrians believed to be involved with ISIL entered Thailand in the second half of October. According to the memo, some of them went to Bangkok, Pattaya, and Phuket.


Pattaya and Phuket are seaside resorts popular with foreign tourists, and Pattaya is especially popular with Russians.

"The objectives of these people are to cause harm to Russia's assets or those of its allies in Thailand," said the memo.

The police memo called on security officials to confirm the information and step up security at possible targets related to countries opposed to ISIL, specifically the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Sweden and Australia.

Tight security

Songpol also said that security had already been increased at venues in Bangkok, including embassies, after the deadly attacks in Paris on November 13.

The Thai capital was the target of a bombing in August that killed 20 people, but the attack has been linked to rebels from China's Muslim Uighur minority.

There have been few signs of ISIL activity in Thailand, though the group actively recruits volunteers from its Southeast Asian neighbours Malaysia and Indonesia - which are predominantly Muslim - to fight in Syria and Iraq.

Sidney Jones, an expert on Southeast Asian Islamist movements at the Jakarta-based Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict, told the AP news agency that ISIL cells in Southeast Asia were getting more serious about establishing a more formal structure.

Source: AP


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NEWS: IRAQ - Iraq demands withdrawal of Turkish troops near Mosul




Iraq has called on Turkey to immediately withdrawal Turkish troops operating in the country's north, saying the deployment was a violation of Iraqi sovereignty, the prime minister's office said on Saturday.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the entry of "around one armed battalion" of Turkish soldiers to the northern Nineveh area near Mosul was done without permission.

Mosul is under the control of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

The Iraqi foreign ministry in a statement on state television described the Turkish deployment as "an incursion" and rejected any military operation that was not coordinated with the federal government in Baghdad.




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ISIL losing Sunni support in Mosul 

A Turkish security official said the troops had been in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq on a training mission since last year.

An anonymous Turkish security official told Reuters news agency the troops had been in Iraqi Kurdistan and had moved to Mosul accompanied by armoured vehicles - a move that coalition countries targeting ISIL were aware of.

Video released on the website of Turkey's pro-government Yeni Safak newspaper showed flatbed trucks carrying armoured vehicles along a road at night, describing them as a convoy accompanying the Turkish soldiers to Bashiqa.

Iraq demands withdrawal
A senior Kurdish military officer based on the Bashiqa front-line, north of Mosul, said additional Turkish trainers had arrived at a camp in the area overnight on Thursday escorted by a Turkish protection force.

He said he was not aware of the size of the force and refused to speculate.

The camp is used by a force called Hashid Watani (national mobilisation), which is made up of mainly Sunni Arab former Iraqi police and volunteers from Mosul.

It was formed by former governor Atheel al-Nujaifi, who is close to Turkey. There was already a small number of Turkish trainers there before this latest deployment.

"Our soldiers are already in Iraq. A battalion of soldiers has gone there. Training was already being given in that region for the last two to three years. This is a part of that training," one senior Turkish official said.

In Washington, two US defence officials said on Friday that the United States was aware of Turkey's deployment of hundreds of Turkish soldiers to northern Iraq, but the move was not part of the US-led coalition's activities.

Peshmerga
Another senior Turkish official said the soldiers in the region were there to train Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.

Turkey has close relations with the Kurdish autonomous zone of northern Iraq, though it views Syrian Kurdish groups across the border as hostile to its interests.

"This is part of the fight against Daesh [ISIL]," the Turkish official said, adding there were about 20 armoured vehicles accompanying the force as protection.

ISIL occupies swaths of Iraq and Syria, profiting from disunity among groups opposing it.

On Tuesday, the US said it was deploying a new force of special operations troops to Iraq to conduct raids against ISIL there and in neighbouring Syria, ratcheting up its campaign against the group.

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