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In Depth

The Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra: A Looming Grand Jihadi Alliance?

THE LEVANT EXCLUSIVE – By Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi – The international coalition- led by the U.S.- against the Islamic State [IS], with additional American airstrikes targeting the ‘Khorasan’ al-Qa’ida group in Syria (in reality just al-Qa’ida veterans from the Afghanistan-Pakistan embedded with Syria’s al-Qa’ida affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra [JN])- has prompted media speculation …

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Saudi blames Al-Qaeda for deadly anti-Shiite attack

THE LEVANT – Saudi authorities have blamed militants linked to Al-Qaeda for an unprecedented attack that killed Shiite worshippers and stoked sectarian tensions in the Sunni-dominated kingdom. Saudi authorities have blamed militants linked to Al-Qaeda for an unprecedented attack that killed Shiite worshippers and highlighted sectarian tensions in the Sunni-dominated …

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The chaos that is Libya

THE LEVANT – Libya’s supreme court on Thursday invalidated the internationally recognised parliament, setting the stage for deepening political chaos in the violence-wracked North African nation. The ruling, which cannot be appealed, prompted celebratory gunfire in the capital Tripoli where Islamist-led militias have been in control since August, an AFP …

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Assad’ Syria, truncated, battered but defiant

THE LEVANT – Syrian businessmen start from scratch after their shops and factories were destroyed. Families who lost their homes struggle to rent new dwellings and make ends meet. Along highways stretching through government-controlled areas are the bombed ruins of once-rebellious towns, now dotted with checkpoints. Government-controlled Syria is truncated …

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Lebanese Politics: Feast in a Time of War

THE LEVANT – By Alexey Sarabyev  – In Lebanon, fighting continues in Tripoli. Currently all indications are that this is just another instance of restoring order to the chaotic city, a battle with insurgents and terrorists. As always, the Lebanese army and militants are in opposition, and the population itself of …

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First Iraqi Kurdish fighters bound for Kobane arrive in Turkey

THE LEVANT – Crowds of flag-waving Kurds greeted Iraqi peshmerga fighters travelling through Turkey Wednesday to join opposition rebels reinforcing the Syrian town of Kobane against an attack by the Islamic State jihadist group. Flashing victory signs, the fighters armed with machineguns, heavy artillery and rocket launchers received a euphoric …

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Jihadists flock to Libya’s remote south

THE LEVANT – Libya’s remote desert south has become a haven for North African jihadists who have set up training camps in what has traditionally been a hotbed of arms smuggling, experts say. Oil-rich Libya slid into chaos after veteran dictator Moamer Kadhafi was toppled and killed in a NATO-backed …

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Houthi gains in Yemen: Regional and local dimensions

THE LEVANT – By Afro-Middle East Centre – The striking advances of Houthis in Yemen, having already taken de facto control of the capital Sana’a last month, has implications for Yemen as well as for the greater Middle East. Within Yemen, they signal the return to political prominence of the Zaidi-Shia, …

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Regional dimensions to the Libyan conflict

THE LEVANT – By Afro-Middle East Centre – Air strikesaimed at the Libya Dawn militia in recentmonths could further escalate and regionalise the conflict in Libya. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is widely reported as having launched the air strikes, but the bombings seem to be part of increasing intervention in Libya …

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18 dead in clashes in Libya’s Benghazi

THE LEVANT – Fierce clashes raged in Benghazi on Friday, killing at least 18 people, on the third day of an offensive by pro-government forces to recapture Libya’s second city from Islamist militias. An AFP correspondent said the latest fighting was the most violent since forces of former general Khalifa …

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What Makes Islamic State So Formidable?

THE LEVANT  – By Charles Recknagel –  From the use of suicide car bombs against enemy front lines to slaughtering prisoners of war to frighten opponents, Islamic State militants have proven brutally effective on the battlefield. Here are five things that make the group a formidable force. Suicide Bombers Many …

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Heavy toll in Iraq’s “forgotten” Anbar

THE LEVANT – Nine months of shelling, airstrikes and street battles have taken a heavy toll on Iraq’s “forgotten” province of Anbar, the first to be overrun by militants from the group now calling itself the Islamic State (IS). The cities of Ramadi and Fallujah have been reduced to bombed-out wrecks: hospitals, homes, …

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2 million Muslims stone the devil during hajj

THE LEVANT – Two million Muslims ritually stoned the devil Saturday in the last major ritual of this year’s hajj in Saudi Arabia, while fellow believers around the world celebrated Eid al-Adha, the feast of sacrifice. Two million Muslims ritually stoned the devil Saturday in the last major rite of …

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Libya aid push constrained by insecurity

THE LEVANT – A wave of violence between militia groups vying for power is sweeping across parts of Libya, prompting international organizations to put forth an ambitious plan to provide humanitarian aid to 85,000 people by the end of this year. Yet concerns remain over the feasibility of such an operation, …

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Mossad recruits online

THE LEVANT  – By Aaron Heller – It used to be that if you wanted to join one of the world’s most secretive espionage organizations you had to sneak into a foreign embassy, answer a cryptic newspaper ad or show up in a nondescript building in Tel Aviv to meet …

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Jordanian court frees radical cleric Abu Qatada

THE LEVANT – A Jordanian court acquitted radical cleric Abu Qatada of terrorism charges and immediately freed him on Wednesday, ending more than a decade of legal cases against the firebrand preacher. Abu Qatada, who was deported from Britain last year, was found not guilty of conspiring to attack tourists …

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Yemenis align with army after al-Qaeda attacks

THE LEVANT – By Abu Bakr Al Yamany – The Yemeni street is rallying around the army in its fight against al-Qaeda in the wake of the group’s brutal attacks which are affecting both lives and livelihoods, officials said. Horrified and panicked by al-Qaeda’s crimes, organisations and individuals in all echelons …

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Iran Prepares for a Leadership Transition

THE LEVANT – Though Iran has been broadcasting pictures and videos of top state officials and noted foreign dignitaries visiting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the hospital, the health of the man who has held the most powerful post in the Islamic Republic remains unclear. The unusual public relations management …

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Islamic State group’s war chest is growing

THE LEVANT  – By Ken Dilanian – Islamic State militants, who once relied on wealthy Persian Gulf donors for money, have become a self-sustaining financial juggernaut, earning more than $3 million a day from oil smuggling, human trafficking, theft and extortion, according to U.S. intelligence officials and private experts. The …

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Can legal changes stop trafficking in Yemen?

THE LEVANT –  A Yemeni draft law envisaging strict penalties for those involved in trafficking migrants, including kidnapping them and demanding ransom, may finally bring an end to decades of exploitation. To give the process a push, the International Labour Organization (ILO) co-hosted a three-day workshop from 6-8 September with …

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Islam for Dummies

THE LEVANT  – By Mehdi Hasan – Can you guess which books the wannabe jihadists Yusuf Sarwar and Mohammed Ahmed ordered online from Amazon before they set out from Birmingham to fight in Syria last May? A copy of Milestones by the Egyptian Islamist Sayyid Qutb? No. How about Messages to the World: the …

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Israel feels nervous over war crimes probe

THE LEVANT – A jittery Israeli military is gearing up for what could become its next big battle: dealing with U.N. investigations that could result in war-crimes allegations. The army has beefed up its legal staff, is conducting internal investigations of its wartime actions and has prepared a detailed PR …

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