Suicide bomber kills cadets in Afghanistan

Fifteen cadets have died in the second deadly suicide bomb attack in the capital, Kabul, within 24 hours. An attack on a mosque on Friday evening claimed at least 56 lives and injured some 55 more.

Firefighters and soldiers near the scene of Saturday's attack (Getty Images/AFP/W. Kohsar)

A suicide car bomber killed 15 Afghan army cadets as they left their military base in Kabul on Saturday, in the second deadly attack in the capital within 24 hours.

“This afternoon, when a minibus carrying army cadets was coming out of the military academy, a suicide bomber on foot targeted them, martyring 15 and wounding four,” said Defense Ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri.

It was not immediately clear who carried out Saturday’s attack, but a resurgent Taliban has been attacking military posts and installations with devastating effect, while Islamic State (IS) militants have stepped up attacks against Shiite mosques.

Watch video00:38

Suicide bomber attacks Shiite mosque in Kabul

IS claimed responsibility for Friday evening’s suicide bomb attack inside a Shiite mosque, which left 56 deadand another 55 injured.

Over the past five days there have been seven major attacks that have left more than 200 dead.

The barrage of deadly assaults underscores the deteriorating security situation across the country.

NATO’s Resolute Support mission tweeted that the latest strike was an “attack on the future” of Afghanistan and its security forces.

“This attack in #Kabul shows the insurgents are desperate and cannot win” against Afghanistan’s security and defense forces, it said.

This attack in  shows the insurgents are desperate and cannot win against  on the battlefield (2/2)

Attacks on the rise

But among the recent attacks, one of the deadliest — claimed by the Taliban — killed about 50 Afghan soldiers during an assault on a military base in the southern province of Kandahar on Thursday.

The militants blasted their way into the military base using two Humvees packed with explosives. It was one of three such attacks this week, according to officials.

The base, in the Chashmo area of Maiwand district, was razed to the ground, according to the Defense Ministry.

Afghan security forces secure the site of a Shiite mosque after a suicide bomb attack.More than 50 people were killed in Friday’s attack on the Imam-e-Zaman mosque in Kabul

On the same day, Taliban militants surrounded a police headquarters in the province of Ghazni, attacking it for the second time in a week.

Afghan security forces have endured soaring casualties as they struggle to hold back the insurgents. Their casualty rate has accelerated since NATO withdrew its combat forces from the country at the end of 2014.

The number of casualties jumped 35 percent in 2016, with some 6,800 soldiers and police officers killed, according to SIGAR, a US watchdog.

Insurgent attacks against security forces have become more sophisticated over the past year. SIGAR described Afghan casualty rates in the early part of the year as “shockingly high.”

People inspect the aftermath of a suicide bomb attack inside a Shiite mosque in Kabul.Friday’s mosque attack underscores the fragile security situation in Afghanistan

An attack on a military base in Mazar-i-Sharif in April was devastating, killing 144 people. Similarly, an attack on a military hospital in Kabul in March killed as many as 100.

People are growing increasingly angry at the government’s inability to protect them, particularly in Kabul, where nearly 20 percent of the country’s civilian deaths in the first half of the year occurred.

“If our government officials cannot protect us, they have to resign and let other competent officials take charge,” said an eyewitness to the mosque bombing Friday night.

bik/tj (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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ISIS moral police ‘whipped, beat & jailed’ defiant Al-Mayadeen residents, survivors tell RT

Islamic State terrorists’ efforts to whip, beat and torture people into submission for the tiniest violations of their perverted laws failed, locals in recently-liberated Al-Mayadeen in Syria told RT, recalling their disturbing experiences.

Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists captured the city of Al-Mayadeen, located just 45km southeast of Deir ez-Zor, in July 2013. Raising their black standard, the Salafi jihadist group went on to impose a fundamentalist, Wahhabi doctrine of Sunni Islam, violations of which were punished under Sharia law.

READ MORE: ISIS releases moms’ guidebook to raising ‘jihadi babies’

While many civilians left the city prior to the jihadists’ arrival, those who stayed were forced into following IS law and social conduct. A veil of prosecution and torture descended on Al-Mayadeen for over four years, until the Tiger Forces commanded by Syrian Army Brigadier General Suheil Salman al-Hassan pierced through IS defenses last Saturday, liberating the city from the Islamists’ yoke.

Many locals that an RT Arabic crew spoke with recalled that the militants went on to seize people’s properties before instituting a religious police force that was responsible for implementing their social morals in people’s daily lives.

“ISIS took away homes that belonged to my brothers. They confiscated them…to live there,” one Al-Mayadeen native said.

“They had such an agency as the moral police called ‘Hisbah,’”the man said, explaining that it patrolled the city and punished the locals for violating Sharia law. The Islamic doctrine of Hisbah, which translates as “accountability,” empowers the leadership to intervene in the daily conduct of people to forcefully “enjoin good and forbid wrong.”

Force was used widely by the IS Hisbah units, who detained people for the slightest of infractions such as smoking cigarettes or shaving their face.

“Nobody wanted to cooperate with ISIS. I spent six days in prison for smoking one cigarette,” one of the survivors told RT, explaining that people were detained even if they smelled of tobacco.

Showing stubble on his face, the man also told RT that people were held in prison for days for any attempts to shave their facial hair. Explaining that IS demanded all beards to “grow naturally,” the man says he was arrested several times because his facial hair failed to meet their standards.

“They arrested me, then whipped me, tormented me and gave me spoiled food,” another man recalled, explaining that he was imprisoned twice because of his beard, and once because he wore pants instead of traditional jalabiya – an ankle-length, long-sleeved Arab garment.

READ MORE: Pancakes for jihadists: ISIS shares new online cooking tips

The stories documented by RT are just a tiny glimpse into the brutality of Islamic State’s justice system. Over the years, thousands of people have suffered for any alleged infractions that were met with punishments including flogging, beheading and burning.

Locals are relieved just to be alive, having suffered IS rule. It ended in a massive retreat of the jihadist forces, despite replenishments with ammo and fighters from Iraq. Even a week after the Syrian Army first entered the city, it continues to discover huge stockpiles of weapons.

“We searched the whole area, which served as the main military ISIS depot,” a Syrian Army soldier told RT. “The neighborhood has underground tunnels and was full of weapons.”

A number of abandoned warehouses full of weapons, left behind by IS fighters as they fled to the east side of the Euphrates River, were filmed by the RT crew embedded with the Syrian forces.

The Syrian Army, supported by the Russian Air Force, meanwhile continues to advance on the remaining pockets of terrorist resistance between Al-Mayadeen and Deir ez-Zor city.

Courtesy: RT

‘Islamic State’ (IS) fighters evacuate as battle for Raqqa nears end

A US-backed alliance of militias said “Islamic State” (IS) fighters have evacuated the city of Raqqa under an agreement to release captive civilians. US-backed forces have almost completely captured Raqqa.

Syrian SDF soldiers in Raqqa (Reuters/R. Said)

The US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias, on Sunday launched their final assault against the remaining “Islamic State” (IS) fighters in the northern Syrian city of Raqqa .

More than 3,000 civilians fled the city as part of the evacuation agreement, said SDF spokesman Talal Silo.

On Saturday, the SDF had agreed to a proposal that allowed Syrian IS jihadists to leave the city in exchange for the release of civilians held by the militants. However, IS’ foreign fighters were excluded from the evacuation deal.

Read more: ‘Islamic State’ facing imminent collapse in Syria’s Raqqa

“Last night, the final batch of fighters (who agreed to leave) left the city,” said SDF spokesman Mostafa Bali, adding that no foreign fighters had left the city. The SDF later said in a statement that around 275 local fighters and their families had left as part of the deal.

“The final battle will continue until the entire city is cleansed of terrorists, who have refused to surrender,” the SDF said.

However, Omar Alloush, an official in the Raqqa Civilian Council, disputed the SDF’s claim and said a batch of foreign jihadists had also departed with the convoy of local militants.

Map showing where main cities in Syria are located

‘Our aim is liberation’

The US had earlier protested a safe exit for the extremist group. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Friday the US would accept the surrender of IS militants who would be interrogated for intelligence purposes.

The tribal leaders said they appealed to the coalition and the SDF to allow IS fighters to leave the city to stem further violence.

“Because our aim is liberation, not killing, we appealed to the SDF to arrange for the local fighters and secure their exit to outside of the city with our guarantees,” the tribal chiefs said in a statement.

IS had seized Raqqa as part of a broad offensive in Syria and Iraq in early 2014, and the city has since served as the jihadists’ primary Syrian stronghold.

But IS has lost much of its territory after US and Russian-backed forces began separate offensives against the militant group. In July, US-backed Iraqi forces retook Mosul, the jihadists’ de facto capital in Iraq.

Watch video06:36

Syria: The Battle for Raqqa

‘Liberation within days’

Raqqa has practically fallen to the US-led coalition, but it is unclear how many militants are still in the city. There have been reports of continued fighting between SDF fighters and IS jihadists in some parts of the city.

Read more: Raqqa: US-backed forces declare end in sight for ‘Islamic State’ (IS)

A spokesman for the US-led coalition, Colonel Ryan Dillon, said Saturday that around a hundred IS militants had already surrendered and been “removed” from the city since Friday.

“We still expect difficult fighting in the days ahead and will not set a time for when we think ‘Islamic State’ will be completely defeated in Raqqa,” he said.

 Civil Council/local Arab tribal elders work to minimize civilian casualties as SDF & @CJTFOIR prepare for major defeat in Raqqa

But the Syrian Kurdish militia YPG told Reuters that coalition forces could clear the city of IS forces within days.

“The battles are continuing in Raqqa city. Daesh (IS) is on the verge of being finished. Today or tomorrow the city may be liberated,” YPG spokesman Nouri Mahmoud said.

More defeats for IS

Separately, the Syrian government and allied Shiite militia retook the town of Mayadeen from IS after intense fighting and Russian airstrikes, the Syrian military said Saturday.

Read more: Syria: Civilians trapped in Raqqa as ‘Islamic State’ makes last stand

Located along the Euphrates River near the Iraqi border, Mayadeen had been a strategic IS stronghold as the group lost territory in Syria and Iraq.

Pro-Syrian regime forces have been trying to secure the Iraqi border and push IS out of a small pocket in the provincial capital, Deir al-Zor.

ls,shs/jm (AP, Reuters)

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‘Brute force’ hack of British MPs blamed on Iran amid nuclear deal tensions – report

‘Brute force’ hack of British MPs blamed on Iran amid nuclear deal tensions – report
A “brute force” attack on British MPs back in June has allegedly been traced to Iranian hackers, the Times reported citing intelligence sources. The article came as London urged Washington not to derail the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

An unsourced report by the Times claims that a “brute force” hack attack on the Parliament’s computers was attributed to Iranian hackers. The cyberattack that occurred on June 23 affected 9,000 email accounts, including those of UK Prime Minister Theresa May and other government members.

Citing “a secret intelligence assessment,” the Times wrote the June attack “is believed to be Iran’s first significant act of cyberwarfare on Britain and underlines its emergence as one of the world’s biggest cyberpowers.” 

The Times’ sources referred to alleged Iranian perpetrators as “highly capable actors in the cyberworld.” One source said: “It was not the most sophisticated attack but nor did it need to be. It is possible they were simply testing their capability.”

The timing of the publication is particularly noteworthy as it comes only a day after Prime Minister May issued a joint statement on Friday together with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron in support of the landmark 2015 Iran nuclear deal signed by six world powers plus Iran.

“We stand committed to the [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] and its full implementation by all sides,” the three leaders said, adding that preserving the agreement “is in our shared national security interest.”

The UK, Germany, and France said that the nuclear deal “was the culmination of 13 years of diplomacy and was a major step towards ensuring that Iran’s nuclear program is not diverted for military purposes,” and that they will “take note” of the Trump’s administration intent not to certify the deal by the deadline set for October 15.

May, Merkel, and Macron urged the Trump administration and Congress “to consider the implications to the security of the US and its allies before taking any steps that might undermine the JCPOA,” including imposing renewed sanctions on Iran lifted under the agreement.

Downing Street did not comment on the Times’ article, though the newspaper said senior British officials acknowledged that “the revelation had complicated Mrs. May’s response to Mr. Trump.”

Middle East tensions: ‘‘s real objective is to make walk away from nuclear deal’ – Martin Jay to RT https://on.rt.com/8pre 

The hack attack in question targeted the private email accounts of up to 90 members of the UK Parliament, and was designed to access parliamentary user credentials by identifying weak email passwords.

Later, it was announced the attack was likely masterminded by amateur hackers rather than a state entity. Cybersecurity experts familiar with the investigation said the perpetrators were only able to break into the accounts of MPs who set up simple and easily deducible passwords.

READ MORE: ‘Iran deal not a bargaining chip’: Trump proved US can break agreements at any time, Moscow says

The revelation contradicted earlier claims that a foreign government was behind the hack, as many Western commentators immediately pointed the finger at Russia.

There is an ongoing investigation into the incident by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) and the National Crime Agency. An NCSC spokesperson told the Times: “It would be inappropriate to comment further while enquiries are on-going.”

Courtesy: RT

Scores killed in car explosion near hotel in Somali capital (VIDEOS, PHOTOS)

Two car bombs hit Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, police say, adding that 22 people were killed. The first blast was reportedly followed by gunfire.

Police said the first explosion happened near the Safari Hotel, which was largely destroyed by the powerful blast. Rescue workers are still recovering people from the rubble. The hotel is close to Somalia’s Foreign Ministry.

Biggest blast I’ve ever heard in  in years. A huge VBIED has gone off at Zoobe Area in downtown Mogadishu. .

“It was a truck bomb. It exploded at the K5 Junction,” Hussein  told Reuters adding that “the scene is still burning.”

We know that at least 20 civilians are dead while dozens of others are wounded,”  Abdullahi Nur, a police officer told Reuters.

The death toll will surely rise. We are still busy transporting casualties,” he said.

Hussein told AP that the explosion occurred as security forces were following the truck that had raised suspicions. The blast apparently targeted a local hotel, he added.

“There was a traffic jam and the road was packed with bystanders and cars,” Abdinur Abdulle, a waiter at a nearby restaurant, told AP. “It is a disaster,” he added.

Witnesses say that the explosion was followed by gunfire.

A second blast took place in the city’s Madina district, according to police.

It was a car bomb. Two civilians were killed, “ Siyad Farah, a police major, told Reuters. He added that a suspect had been caught on suspicion of planting explosives.

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Exclusive: We are still transporting casualties to the Hospitals. Here are some of the photos we took it. 

The blasts took place two days after the head of the US Africa Command was in Mogadishu to meet with Somalia’s president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. However, the Al-Shabab militant group based in Somalia has recently staged attacks on army bases and city centers across the southern and central parts of the country.

Courtesy: RT