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    ISIS Tag

    ISIS is ready to take another victim. Multiple news outlets are reporting that ISIS has threatened the life of a third (living) hostage, this time a 26 year-old female American aid worker who was kidnapped last year during a humanitarian mission to Syria. (A representative of the family asked that she not be identified.) Militants have demanded $6.6 million and a reciprocal release of prisoners in exchange for her return. Via ABC News:
    She is the third of at least four Americans who were known to be held by ISIS, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. American journalist James Foley was executed by the group in a video that appeared online last week. Another writer, Steven Sotloff, was seen alive but under duress in the same footage. In addition to the multi-million dollar ransom, the terror group has also demanded that the U.S. release Aafia Siddiqui, an MIT-trained neuroscientist who was convicted by the U.S. in 2010 of trying to kill U.S. officials two years before, according to a supporter of Siddiqui who has been in contact with the hostage’s family.

    We already know that ISIS is “beyond anything we’ve seen;" that they're prodigiously well-funded; that they marry radical Islamic ideology with brutal paramilitary tactics; and that they could pose a threat beyond the confines of the Middle East. What we don't know is the scope of the immediate threat to U.S. assets in the Middle East outside of Iraq. That's why President Obama has approved the use of drone technology in Syria to aid in the military's air surveillance efforts. Via the Wall Street Journal:
    The U.S. military's Central Command, which oversees American operations in the region, requested more surveillance aircraft, including drones, to gather more intelligence on potential Islamic State targets, and officials said they could start flying missions over eastern Syria shortly.
    Of course, the question on everyone's mind is whether or not drone surveillance will translate into the use of drones to take out hostile targets. The U.S. Military's Central Command, however, has not indicated that they intend to use the drones for that purpose at least for now:
    "The Pentagon is preparing to conduct reconnaissance flights over Syria," a senior U.S. official said. "There is no decision yet to do strikes, but in order to help make that decision, you want to get as much situational awareness as possible."
    It doesn't help matters that Syria has been locked in its current conflict since early 2011. The Syrian Civil War started three years ago with mostly peaceful protests against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad. Since then, almost 200,000 people have died amidst clashes that have spread beyond Syria and into northern Iraq and Lebanon.

    Officials in the U.K. are close to identifying the man who beheaded American Journalist James Foley. The Times of Israel reported Sunday that Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, a local London rapper, is the main suspect in the case. Intelligence officials believe that Bary left London for Syria with the goal of joining the Islamic State. Although officials would not confirm that Bary is indeed the man seen in the video of Foley's execution, they have not denied reports covering the possibility of suspects:
    "We're not in a position to say exactly who this is," Sir Peter Westmacott said on NBC's "Meet the Press," but "I think we are close.” Westmacott said "sophisticated" voice recognition technology was being used to identify the man who appeared in the video, but he also stressed that the threat of British nationals in ISIS goes beyond one killer.

    Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey went into detail Thursday about the threat ISIL ("ISIS") poses not only to minorities in the Middle East, but also to American interests both at home and abroad. Via Fox News:
    "Jim Foley's murder was another tragic demonstration of the ruthless, barbaric ideology of ISIL. ISIL militants continue to massacre and enslave innocent people, and persecute Iraq's...minority populations. ... Given the nature of this threat, at President Obama's direction, and at request of Iraqi government, the United States military has provided assistance to Iraqi security forces in order to protect U.S. personnel and facilities, and support Iraq's efforts to counter ISIL in addition to providing humanitarian assistance."
    Secretary Hagel said that he anticipates that more international forces will join the already-international efforts in the coming weeks. He also lauded the recent peaceful transition of power in Iraq, and promised assistance in exchange for political progress. He did not, however, downplay the risk that ISIL still poses:
    We are pursuing a long term strategy against ISIL, because ISIL clearly poses a long term threat. We should expect ISIL to regroup, and stage new offenses, and the US military's involvement is not over. ... Our objectives remain clear and limited: to protect American citizens and facilities, to provide assistance to Iraqi forces as they confront ISIL, and to join with international partners to address the humanitarian crisis.

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made headlines at a recent press conference by specifically comparing Hamas to ISIS. As if to prove Netanyahu right, Hamas conducted the execution without trial of several alleged collaborators on Thursday, followed up by a reported 18 today. This is on top of dozens previously executed. Many if not all of these were conducted in public. Hamas has been known to drag bodies through the streets, although it's unclear if that happened this time. CNN reports:
    Hamas executed 18 suspected informants for Israel in Gaza on Friday, the Hamas-run Al Aqsa TV reported. This comes one day after an Israeli strike in the Gaza city of Rafah killed three senior leaders of the Qassam Brigades, the Hamas military wing.
    The Times of Israel adds:
    The witness said masked gunmen lined up the seven men in a side street and opened fire on them. He spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing for his own safety. Other witnesses told AFP that six of them were grabbed from among hundreds of worshipers leaving the city’s largest mosque, by men in the uniform of Hamas’s military wing. They were pushed to the ground. One of the masked men shouted: “This is the final moment of the Zionist enemy collaborators,” then the gunmen sprayed them with bullets.

    Various news outlets are reporting the crash of a helicopter being used in the humanitarian relief effort for the Yazidi refugees in Iraq. Jim Sciutto who has been covering the crisis in Iraq for weeks reports that Vian Dakhil, the only member of the Iraqi Parliament representing the Yazidi minority group was on the helicopter. Additional reports now say the helicopter pilot was the only death, but many of the passengers are injured including Dakhil and her son who was on board as well.
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