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ISIS : American hostage Kayla Mueller killed over jordanian airstrikes on Raqqa in Syria

By Tajuddin
In TOP STORY
Feb 6th, 2015
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Kayla Mueller in an undated photo

Kayla Mueller in an undated photo

Raqqa , Syria ( Agencies + DIPLOMAT.SO) – The Islamic State militant group said on Friday that an American woman hostage it was holding in Syria had been killed when Jordanian fighter jets bombed a building where she was being held, the SITE monitoring group said.

In Washington, U.S. officials said they could not confirm that the woman, who has been identified as 26-year-old aid worker Kayla Mueller of Prescott, Arizona, had been killed.

Mueller was the last-known American hostage held by Islamic State, which controls wide areas of Syria and Iraq and has executed five British and American aid workers and journalists in recent months.

The group’s latest claim comes just days after it released a video on Tuesday appearing to show a captured Jordanian pilot, Mouath al-Kasaesbeh, being burned alive in a cage. Jordan immediately vowed to intensify military action against Islamic State.

A representative in the United States of Mueller’s family said the family had no information on Islamic State’s statement that she had been killed.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters during a briefing in Washington, “I cannot confirm those reports in any way.”

The White House said it was “deeply concerned” over the report but that it had not seen “any evidence that corroborates ISIL’s claim,” using an acronym for the group.

Islamic State, in a message monitored by SITE, said Mueller died when the building in which she was being held outside Raqqa, a major stronghold of the group, collapsed in a Jordanian air strike on Friday.

“The air assaults were continuous on the same location for more than an hour,” Islamic State said, according to SITE.

Reuters and other Western news organizations were aware that Mueller was being held hostage but did not name her at the request of her family members, who believed the militants would harm her if her case received publicity.

‘WHERE IS THE WORLD?’

Mueller was taken hostage while leaving a hospital in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo in August 2013. She had a long record of volunteering abroad and was moved by the plight of civilians in Syria’s civil war.

“For as long as I live, I will not let this suffering be normal. (I will not let this be) something we just accept,” Mueller’s local newspaper The Daily Courier quoted her in 2013 as saying.

“When Syrians hear I’m an American, they ask, ‘Where is the world?’ All I can do is cry with them, because I don’t know,” Mueller said.

She had worked for a Turkish aid organisation on the Syrian border and volunteered for schools and aid organizations abroad including in both the West Bank and Israel as well as in Dharamsala, India, where she taught English to Tibetan refugees.

Jordanian aircraft hit multiple targets in Syria on Thursday, including an ammunitions depot and storage facilities. Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren estimated the Jordanians dropped a total of around 72 munitions on its targets.

Jordan is a major U.S. ally in the fight against militant Islamist groups, and hosted U.S. troops during operations that led to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Hours after the release of the video showing the pilot burning to death, Jordanian authorities executed two al Qaeda militants who had been imprisoned on death row, including a woman who had tried to blow herself up in a suicide bombing and whose release had been demanded by Islamic State.

Warren said the United States was also heavily involved in Thursday’s operations in Syria, flying alongside Jordanian planes.

US President Obama with Jordan's King Abdullah II

US President Obama with Jordan’s King Abdullah II

U.S. State Department denied Predator drone request for Jordan, rep urges reversal

The State Department denied a request last year to send unarmed Predator drones to Jordan arguing that the kingdom was not a strong enough ally, according to a U.S. congressman who is now urging the administration to reverse the decision as Jordan escalates its fight against the Islamic State.

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., fired off a letter to President Obama saying it is “absolutely critical” that the U.S. provides Jordan what it needs to fight ISIS, echoing a bipartisan call on Capitol Hill. Jordan’s King Abdullah II visited Washington earlier this week, just as a video was released showing a Jordanian pilot being burned alive by ISIS.

According to U.S. lawmakers who met with him, Abdullah appealed for more support in getting everything from ammunition to night-vision equipment, as Jordan takes the war to ISIS.

Hunter said in his letter that the surveillance drones, too, are “much needed for a nation such as Jordan” and would give the country “critical mission capability in the fight against the Islamic State.”

He claimed that the administration had denied a request to provide unarmed Predator XP drone systems. According to a Hunter aide, the State Department denied the request from the manufacturer last fall, effectively arguing that Jordan was not a strong enough ally to receive the technology, under U.S. export control laws.

A license would be needed because such drones fall under what’s known as the Missile Technology Control Regime.

The aide said Jordan, though, still wants the drones, as they would help with their escalating operations.

“With the stroke of a pen, somebody could fix this,” the aide said.

In his letter, Hunter called for the license denial to be “reversed immediately.”

The drones are made by General Atomics, which is headquartered near Hunter’s southern California district. According to a 2013 report, the company planned to sell the drones to the United Arab Emirates and other Middle East countries.

Asked about the license request, a State Department official said they are restricted from discussing such “internal deliberations.” But the official said “Jordan is an invaluable ally with whom we coordinate closely on a range of issues throughout the region.”

Meanwhile, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are urging the administration to speed up the delivery of other military aid to Jordan on the heels of its pilot’s execution.

All members of the Senate Armed Services Committee wrote to the heads of the State and Defense departments earlier this week making that appeal. The U.S. is already giving Jordan $1 billion in economic and military aid this year, and has signed an agreement with Jordan boosting security assistance by up to $400 million a year through 2017.

The State Department official noted Jordan is one of the biggest recipients of U.S. security assistance. “We continue to make every effort to expedite security assistance to Jordan,” the official said. “The State Department is acting promptly on Jordanian requests for military capabilities, in partnership with the Department of Defense. Jordan remains a pillar of regional security and continues to make critical contributions to the global coalition to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL.”

Asked Thursday about the calls to give Jordan more assistance, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest also said the U.S. is “committed to ensuring that we stand shoulder to shoulder with our partners in Jordan at this very serious time.”

He added: “And if that means ensuring that they are getting the security assistance that were promised, they can count on the president of the United States being a strong advocate for making sure that they get that assistance that they need.”

Jordan is charging ahead with a new round of airstrikes in retaliation for the murder of their pilot.

A senior U.S. defense official told Fox News that “two dozen” Jordanian F-16s, roughly half the number in their inventory, completed a strike in Syria on Friday against “ISIS facilities.”

The Jordanians were supported by U.S. fighter jets and other assets.

The location of the strike in Syria was not disclosed. All aircraft returned safely, and more strikes are expected in the near future.

White House says Obama will ask Congress to authorize military force against ISIS

President Obama is expected to formally ask Congress to authorize the use of military force against the Islamic State terror group in the coming days, even as lawmakers said crafting and passing such a measure would be a challenge.

The U.S. has been carrying out airstrikes against the terrorists, most commonly known as ISIS, in Iraq and Syria since August and September, respectively. In doing so, Obama has been relying on congressional authorizations that President George W. Bush used to justify military action after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Critics have called the White House’s use of post-9/11 congressional authorizations a legal stretch, though Obama has previously argued that a new authorization isn’t legally necessary.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Thursday that the administration is dedicated to getting a new authorization with bipartisian support. He declined to comment on specific provisions, including how long the authorization will last, what geographical areas it will cover and whether it will allow for the possibility of ground troops. Earnest said those details were still being worked out.

“When it comes to fighting a war, the Congress should not tie the president’s hands, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told reporters Thursday morning. However, Boehner later added, “It’s also incumbent on the president to make the case to the American people on why we need to fight this fight. This is not going to be an easy lift.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said talks with the administration are focusing on an authorization time frame of three years, while the other issues are still being worked out. Pelosi added that she ultimately expects a compromise on the outstanding issues to be reached and added that she hopes Congress will repeal the 2002 congressional authorization for the war in Iraq while retaining the 2001 authorization for military action in Afghanistan.

“I’m not saying anybody’s come to an agreement on it,” Pelosi said. “I think it’s going to be a challenge, but we will have it.”

The developments come after Islamic militants released a grisly video of the murder of a Jordanian Air Force pilot by burning him alive. Pelosi also said that the U.S. should “move quickly” to steer military aid to Jordan, which has begun a stepped-up campaign against the militants, including a series of air strikes in Syria.

Republicans generally want a broader authorization of military action against the militants, who have overrun wide swaths of Iraq and Syria, than Democrats have been willing to consider. Obama has said he does not intend to have U.S. “boots on the ground” in combat roles, while many Republicans believe that option ought to be available to the military.

Secretary of State John Kerry has testified that any new authorization should not limit U.S. military action to just Iraq and Syria or prevent the president from deploying ground troops if he later deems them necessary. Kerry also said that if the new authorization has a time limit, there should be a provision for it to be renewed.

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the ranking member of the House intelligence panel, has already introduced legislation rather than wait for Obama’s version. His bill would authorize the use of force against ISIS in Iraq and Syria for three years, but prohibit the use of ground forces in a combat mission in either nation. He has said if the president later decided to deploy ground troops, he could return to Congress to ask for new authority.

“It is my hope that the administration will be willing to accept important limits in a new authorization as well as the sunset or repeal of the old [authorizations], as this will be necessary to ensure strong bipartisan support and meet the goals the president set last summer of refining and repealing the prior authorizations,” Schiff said in a statement Thursday, using the acronym for authorization for use of military force.

ISIS Militants in Iraq

ISIS Militants in Iraq

ISIS putting price tags on Iraqi children, selling them as slaves, U.N. says

ISIS is subjecting Iraqi children to a series of horrors, including putting price tags on them and selling them as slaves, the United Nations said.

In a report released this week, the world body accused ISIS of increasingly using children in its bloody campaign of terror.

It said the terror group’s list of brutality is growing longer, and includes enslaving, raping, beheading, crucifying and burying people alive.

“We have had reports of children, especially children that are mentally challenged, who have been used as suicide bombers, most probably without them even understanding what has happened or what they have to expect,” said Renate Winter, expert on the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Some as young as age 8 are getting training to become soldiers, she said.

“Children of minorities have been captured in places where the so-called ISIL has its strength, have been sold in market with taps, price tags on them, have been sold as slaves,” Winter said.

Yazidi children may be among the minorities targeted. ISIS has singled out Yazidis in the past, and they have long suffered persecution, with some Muslims referring to them as devil worshippers.

The U.N. urged Iraq to do more to protect all children, and said the nation’s forces are contributing to the problem.

A “very large number of children” have been killed and severely injured by airstrikes, shelling and military operations by Iraqi forces, the report said.

ISIS, or the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, now refers to itself as the “Islamic State.” Some government agencies use ISIL, or the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.

Last year, the terror group declared that it had established a “caliphate” spanning Iraq and Syria. Since then, it has gone on a murderous rampage that has included beheadings of foreigners. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have fled areas it has seized.

In one of its most recent attacks, ISIS released a video Tuesday showing a Jordanian captive, pilot Lt. Moath al-Kasasbeh, burned to death. The Middle East nation hit back Thursday, unleashing fighter jets to ISIS strongholds in retaliation.

ISIS captured the 27-year-old al-Kasasbeh after his F-16 fighter jet crashed near Raqqa on December 24. Even though the video came out this week, Jordanian authorities say they believe he was killed a month earlier.

The video of the pilot’s burning seems to support the U.N.’s assertion.

In it, a young boy looks up as if in awe and says he would “burn the pilot” himself if he had a chance. “All Arab tyrants should also be burned,” the boy says.

Since the video is carefully orchestrated propaganda, DIPLOMAT NEWS NETWORK has no way of knowing if the boy was coerced.

Anwar al-Tarawneh, the wife of Lt Kasaesbeh

Anwar al-Tarawneh, the wife of Lt Kasaesbeh

Jordanian pilot Muath al-Kasaesbeh’s wife: I found out on Facebook that my husband had been burned alive by Isis

When her mother first called her in tears, Anwar Tarawneh knew immediately that something was wrong.

Her husband, Lieutenant Muath al-Kasaesbeh, was in the hands of Isis, after being shot down while flying an F-16 over Syria on 24 December.

Jordan’s government was willing to negotiate his freedom, trading his life for a female al-Qaeda prisoner Isis wanted to have released, and Ms Tarawneh was at a sit-in protest at a university in Amman where students were expressing their support for him when she took the call.

She wasn’t convinced by her mother’s explanation for her tears – that two of her siblings were quarrelling.

“It was only when I opened Facebook on my phone that I saw the post, ‘Rest in peace, Muath,’” she says, her voice croaky with emotion.

She still hasn’t watched the grisly video which shows Isis burning her husband alive in a cage. She collapsed shortly after hearing the news and was admitted to hospital. The tape is still stuck to her right hand, with a pink insert for the intravenous drip to which she was attached.

Her husband, now a hero in Jordan, had a premonition that his flight that fateful day was going to go badly, he told her on what proved to be the last time they would ever talk.

“He had hoped there would be fog, so he wouldn’t have to fly,” she tells The Independent, sitting in her late husband’s ancestral home, near the town of Karak. Dressed in a denim knee-length coat, and wearing a headscarf, she has trouble holding back the tears. “He had the feeling something would go wrong,” she says. “It was strange, he had never said that before.”

Hours later, his plane was shot down over Raqqa; he ejected successfully, but soon afterwards Isis revealed he was a prisoner.

Five weeks of uncertainty followed until his grim fate was revealed. And now, thousands are gathering to pay tribute to a “martyr” who united Jordan in its opposition to Isis.

Today relatives painted a picture of a pious, polite young man, devoted to his family, a golden son who was loved and respected by all. The only vice he seems to have had, a sweet tooth, made him a generous provider of sweets to his younger sisters.

Growing up he was always in a hurry, eager to get to school and move up in life. “It’s as if he knew his life would be short,” one relative described him. At just 26, he had already bought a farm.

His father, Saif, hoped that Muath would be a doctor, and wanted him to study in Moscow. Medical books line the anteroom to the gold-pillared reception hall in his parents’, house and relatives say Saif never fully accepted Muath’s choice of career.

But Muath wanted to join the air force. He was fiercely proud of being a pilot. “He lived his life like an F-16,” a cousin said.

He was married last July, far too young according to his grandmother. The match was arranged by his oldest brother Jawad, who was friendly with Ms Tarawneh’s brother as they both worked as engineers at an air base.

A smile breaks through the tears when Ms Tarawneh recounts their courtship. “I actually wasn’t supposed to end up with Muath, but with his older brother,” she says. “When he came to see what I was like, I wasn’t home. And then he met another girl. But the families were well suited and his sisters also pushed for the match. So Muath ended up with me,” she says, beaming.

Her eyes light up when she talks about their July wedding, the white dress, the slide show of pictures of the honeymoon in Istanbul. “That is my happiest memory of my time with him.”

They had even picked out names for their future children. “He wanted to be Abu Karam, so Karam would be our first-born boy. And he said I could chose whatever I wanted if it was a girl. It was going to be Leya.”

After their wedding, they moved into an flat in a nearby town, to be close to the family. Five days a week, he would be on duty at the air base. And when Jordan was one of four Arab countries to join the coalition against Isis, he began flying sorties to Syria. “Those five months married to Muath were better than all the 25 years before,” she says.

Some family members are less at peace with his mission. “You sent him there and now you come to offer your condolences,” his sister Tasnim, 22, shouted as fighter jets flew low overhead during a visit by Queen Rania, who had come to pay respects to the female relatives. The king was meanwhile meeting the family’s men. “Avenge him,” she screamed repeatedly.

Lt Kasaesbeh’s mother, Issaf, is still in shock, and merely focuses on his devotion. “He always carried a Koran on his heart, and never missed a prayer,” she says.

The last time Anwar spoke to her husband, it was also about prayer. “He reminded me to pray as it was sunset, and told me he had performed a double prayer for martyrs.” Later that night, he was on the way to what became his own martyrdom.

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