Britain Battles the ISIS Ramadan Offensive and the US Makes Show of Force in the Western Pacific
In Europe, the battle with Islamic extremism continues to heat up as the United Kingdom appears to be taking the brunt of the Islamic States (ISIS) Ramadan Offensive. Last night, London suffered what appeared to be a series of two attacks. A van ran down up to about 20 people on London Bridge, and then the attackers appeared to disembark from the vehicle to attack people in the nearby Borough Market pubs and Elliot Restaurant, using knives to stab people. Seven people are reported as dead, along with 3 attackers killed by police, and 48 wounded. Twelve people are under arrests after police operations to break what appears to be another terror cell. The three attackers killed by police were reported to be wearing fake bomb belts. The three attackers are reported to have shouted “this is for Allah.”
If the current reported facts are accurate, this has the hallmarks of at least an ISIS-inspired and likely directed attack. ISIS agents have used vehicle attacks to great effect in Europe including the recent March 22nd vehicle attack on the London bridge and attack on the Westminster Parliamentary Precinct. Attacker using the vehicle to kill innocents and then carrying out further assaults with gun-fire or knife attack have been common in recent ISIS attacks in Europe and Canada in 2014. If it is found that the attackers were carrying bomb belts fake or real this is an added level of sophistication and a matter of the significant concern to security services. There will be questions around why they would wear bomb belts. Whether this is related to the Libyan attack cell in Manchester, the March 22nd London attack, or both, is a matter for further investigation. At this point in time, it appears these events are not connected, and not related to five other terrorist plots in this period smashed by police. Typically, ISIS claims credit within 24 hours of an attack.
British Prime Minister, Theresa May, called a meeting of the Cabinet Emergency Committee or COBRA. She called for a review of laws related to cyber space and Britain’s counter-terrorism strategy, and promised to combat Islamic extremism. The British general election will continue with polls due to open on Thursday. The threat level just lowered from Critical to Severe may be changed back depending on how the current attack ends. There is no word if Operation Temperer will recommence putting a thousand armed British soldiers on the streets. These measures just reversed on Sunday of this past week will no doubt be raised in the coming days in terms of the wisdom of scaling back just prior to another attack.
In unrelated terrorism incidents, Hamza Siddiq, a Scottish Muslim convert has been arrested for posting a message blaming Britain for the Manchester Arena bombing. German authorities have arrested a 22-year-old Syrian man, Ahmet, A.A., on suspicion of being a member of the Al-Qaeda linked Nusra Front group.
As it gets squeezed in Iraq and Syria, ISIS has reportedly even turned on itself. ISIS executed a British jihadi leader fighting for the terror group in Tal Afar, near Mosul. Iraqi army sources claim that a Briton, Russian, Turk, and five Syrians were executed by their terrorist brethren.
Egyptian policy toward the Libyan Civil War has taken a dramatic turn following the ISIS attack on a bus carrying Coptic Christians in Minya province, Egypt. The ISIS attack on May 26, killed 28 people, mostly children, and wounded 25 others.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi responded on the same day with airstrikes against ISIS camps within the Libyan territories and carried out repeated attacks until May 29th.
ISIS has claimed responsibility for an attack Friday at a casino in Manila, the Philippines that left 37 people dead. Police continue to deny the attack was motivated by terror and was strictly crime related by an addicted gambler and that what happened was terror-related. A lone gunman assaulted Resorts World Manila early Friday, firing shots from an assault rifle and setting fire to gambling tables. Several protesters were shot dead Friday or injured during a demonstration demanding better security in Kabul, Afghanistan. This comes after the Haqqani-terror network, allied with Al Qaeda and the Taliban, were blamed for the bombing in Kabul’s diplomatic quarter Wednesday, that killed 90, and wounded 400. But there are sources within the Afghan intelligence services that are now saying that Pakistan is to blame for the attack. Today three suicide bombers attacked the funeral of a senator’s son killed on Friday in the protests. Seven people were killed and 112 wounded in Saturday’s bombings. Five policemen were gunned down Sunday by an ‘insider.’
Nearly 600 people have reportedly died in Yemen of Cholera in just over a month as the disease spreads at an alarming rate. Iran has reportedly shipped hundreds of tons of weapons including; surface-to-air missiles, C4 explosives, and Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs) to Houthi rebels in Yemen.
Meanwhile, North Korea warned the US on Thursday to withdraw its military assets from the region or face nuclear war. Its newly tested ultra-accurate Scud (Short Range Ballistic Missile (SRBM) variant with a maneuverable warhead is clearly aimed at defeating missile defenses. Prior to this, the North Koreans planned to use missile saturation attacks on targets. But maneuverable warheads in the terminal phase of a ballistic missile’s flight path gives them a new option important to all their long-range missiles as well. Currently, two US Carrier Strike Groups in the Sea of Japan, the USS Ronald Reagan and the USS Carl Vinson, have commenced joint exercises with a Japanese helicopter carrier, IJN Hyuga and Japanese F-15 fighter aircraft. A third US Carrier Strike Group led by the USS Nimitz is reportedly on the way to either replace one of the other groups or to join them in joint exercises. Dual carrier deployments to the same region are rare and geared to make a strategic statement. Before Thursday, the last publicized dual carrier deployment in the Western Pacific came when the USS Reagan and USS John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Groups sailed in June 2016 in the Philippine Sea. The UN Security Council slapped North Korea with new sanctions on Saturday in a further attempt to thwart its missile and nuclear plans. Russia warned today that it views North Korea’s nuclear weapons as a “direct threat.”
On the larger international security scene, the US Navy announced Thursday that it has accepted its newest aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford. As well, the Navy took delivery of the Virginia-class nuclear attack submarine (SSN), USS Washington, the 14th SSN of the Virginia-class. As the US tries to grow is naval power in the Pacific to confront China, China is reportedly trying to build a compelling narrative as to why it has developed its first overseas naval base in Djibouti, Africa.
In summary, Britain and Europe is battling the ISIS Ramadan Offensive while the US is making a show of force in the Western Pacific to deter North Korea and China.