ISIS Ramadan Offensive Continues as Collision Between USS Fitzgerald and Philippine-flagged ACX Crys

ISIS Ramadan Offensive Continues as Collision Between USS Fitzgerald and Philippine-flagged ACX Crystal Container Ship Remain Under Investigation

US military officials are not ruling out terrorism as the cause of a fatal collision between the destroyer USS Fitzgerald and the Philippine-flagged ACX Crystal container ship. The ACX Crystal collided with the USS Fitzgerald off the Izu Peninsula in Shizuoka Prefecture. Multiple maritime trackers show the cargo ship doing a massive U-turn just before hitting the USS Fitzgerald, killing seven US sailors, makes the crash look very intentional. The ACX Crystal previously had zig-zagged across the USS Fitzgerald’s path. The collision occurred around 1:30 am but it was not until 2:25 am that the ACX Crystal reported the incident to the Japanese coastguard. The shipping route is heavily congested and has been called a chokepoint with some 400 vessels going through the area each day, and there have been three collisions between large ships reported in the past five years. But the fact that ISIS has gained a foothold in the Philippines and Southeast Asia is a point for further investigation in the fatal collision.

The US State Department announced terrorist designations on three Islamic State (ISIS) operatives on June 15th. Two of the terrorist leaders have been responsible for many plots in Europe and India while the third is a recruiter in Bahrain. One of the three terrorists, Oussama Ahmad Atar is described as the “leading coordinator” for Paris attacks in November 2015, as well as the follow-on attacks in Brussels in March 2016. Atar, Belgian-Moroccan national also known as “Abou Ahmed,” is described as “a senior leader of ISIS’s external operations efforts, to carry out attacks in Europe.” He is believed responsible for recruiting, training, and sending at least some of the terror cell members to Paris to launch the November 2015 terrorist attacks. Atar “also recruited and mentored two of the bombers involved in the March 2016 Brussels attacks.” In addition to Atar, the US State Department added Mohammad Shafi Armar and Mohammed Isa Yousif Saqar Al Binali to the US government’s list of designated terrorists. Mohammad Shafi Armar is described as “a leader and head recruiter” for the Islamic State in India. Mohammed Isa Yousif Saqar Al Binali is described as “a senior member of ISIS” from Bahrain.

British security services said on Monday that they were treating an early morning attack near a mosque in London as an act of terrorism directed toward Muslims. Shortly after midnight, a van rammed into a group of people near the Finsbury Park Mosque, in North London. The imam is credited with saving the attacker who reportedly shouted his intention to kill all Muslims from an angry mob after worshipers subdued him. One person died at the scene and at least 10 were wounded. ISIS activists took to social media framing the attack as a part of a larger war between Muslims and non-Muslims, and by calling for retaliation. The 47-year-old Welsh father of four, Darren Osborne has been charged with terror offenses. The Finsbury Park Mosque has long been considered a hotbed of Islamic extremism having been home to the radical Egyptian cleric, Abu Hamza Masri, later extradited to the US and found guilty of terrorism. The mosque on Whitechapel Road in London received telephone threats this morning forcing its evacuation. This afternoon, at Paddington Station, British police were alerted to a man acting suspiciously who was armed with a knife, with a witness reporting that he was shouting "Allahu Akbar." The man was detained by British police.

Today, a car reportedly crashed into a police van before bursting into flames around the Champs Élysées area of central Paris. The driver reportedly was armed, knocked unconscious by the crash, and is seriously injured. No one else was injured in the vehicle attack. France has been under a state of emergency since the Paris attacks in November 2015, and it should be noted that a policeman was shot dead and two others were wounded in an attack on the Champs Élysées in April.

Palestinian militant factions, Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), on Saturday dismissed a claim by ISIS that it was behind the fatal stabbing of an Israeli policewoman in Jerusalem saying that they carried out the attack. The Israeli security services also raised doubts about ISIS claim, if true it represents the first ISIS attack in Jerusalem. Three Palestinians attacked officers just outside the walled Old City in annexed east Jerusalem late on Friday before being shot dead by security forces. Israeli police have arrested 350 Arab suspects who illegally entered Jerusalem from the West Bank.

Two EU staff members were killed when al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb gunmen stormed a tourist resort in Mali on Sunday and took hostages. One victim was a Portuguese soldier while the other was a Malian woman, two others were injured. Four terrorists were killed by security forces and five other suspects have been arrested. A security ministry spokesman said 32 guests had been rescued from the Le Campement Kangaba resort, east of Bamako.

At least five people were killed and 12 others wounded Saturday in fighting between Somali National Army soldiers and al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab militants in the Bakol region of southwestern Somalia.

Iran launched missile strikes on ISIS in retaliation for twin attacks in Tehran earlier this month and warned of further strikes. The ISIS attacks on Tehran and the Iranian Parliament killed 18 people and left more than 50 others wounded. The Zolfaghar Short Range Ballistic Missile (SRBM) flew over Iraq before reportedly striking an ISIS command center and suicide car bomb operation in Deir el-Zour, over 600 kilometers (370 miles) away. The SRBM, unveiled in September 2016, carries a cluster warhead and has a range of 700 kilometers or 435 miles, that puts the forward headquarters of the US military's Central Command in Qatar, American bases in the United Arab Emirates, the US Navy's 5th Fleet in Bahrain, as well as Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in its strike zone. The Zolfaghar SRBM is a new variant of the Fateh-110 family of solid-fuel tactical ballistic missiles that carries a submunitions warhead.

The Saudi Arabian Navy has reportedly detained three members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps from boat seized near Marjan oilfield on Friday. It is believed that the Iranians were preparing for a terrorist attack on the oil installation in the area in retaliation for the ISIS Tehran attacks that Iran blamed on Saudi Arabia.

US-backed Iraqi troops pushed into the last Islamic State stronghold in Mosul on Sunday formally launching the final major battle of an eight-month campaign to drive ISIS from Iraq's second largest city.

Seven US troops were wounded Saturday when an Afghan soldier opened fired on them inside a military compound in northern Afghanistan, the second insider attack in a week. Sadly, it appears that the Taliban have infiltrated the Afghan Army, in a worrisome trend ahead of the deployment of another 4,000 US troops to Afghanistan. Taliban gunmen and a suicide bomber attacked a police headquarters in eastern Afghanistan, killing five officers and injuring 22 others.

Two Pakistani diplomats based in the Consulate General of Pakistan in Jalalabad, an eastern Afghan city, went missing June 16th while traveling to Pakistan by road.

It was reported that Southeast Asian jihadis who fought for ISIS in Iraq and Syria now have moved back home to the region and are leading the attack in Mindanao, the Philippines. The recent ISIS-aligned Maute terrorist group’s seizure of the Philippine city of Marawi has left more than 300 people dead and sent shock waves through the region and Washington, DC. The US military operation to help Philippine forces contain extremist fighters was canceled prematurely three years ago by the Obama administration. Now only small numbers of US special operations forces remain in an "advise and assist" role to help fight Islamic terrorists, and the US is providing aerial surveillance to help the Philippines retake Marawi.

On Saturday as people shopped ahead of Father’s Day celebrations a bomb was detonated at a popular Bogota shopping center. Three women were killed and nine wounded after an explosive device detonated in a restroom. Both rebel groups, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and National Liberation Army (ELN), denied they were behind Bogota bombing. Three months after a peace agreement was signed FARC remains armed.

On the international security front, German Defense Minister, Ursula von der Leyen, has told German media that Bundeswehr troops will begin pulling out from its Turkish air base in July and moving its forces to Jordan and elsewhere in the Middle East.

US, British, Lithuanian, and Polish troops have carried out the first large-scale NATO defensive drill on the border between Poland and Lithuania rehearsing to repulse a Russia invasion of the Baltic states along 104 kilometer Suwalki Gap. If Russia took control of the Suwalki Gap it would cut off Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania from the rest of the NATO alliance and threaten Poland.

The US military on Sunday shot down a Syrian Air Force Su-22 fighter aircraft that bombed local US-allied Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighting against ISIS militants. The shootdown was near Tabqa, a Syrian town where ISIS militants and the SDF have been locked in battle for a week as they surround the city of Raqqa. The Russian Defense Ministry announced it was halting all cooperation with the US-led Coalition and warned, “in the areas of combat missions of Russian air fleet in Syrian skies, any airborne objects, including aircraft and unmanned vehicles of the [US-led] international coalition, located to the west of the Euphrates River, will be tracked by Russian ground and air defense forces as air targets.” The US has said it will fly wherever it deems necessary.

The first batch of Turkish troops, some 90 soldiers, have arrived in Qatar for a ‘long-planned’ Turkish-Qatari military drill. The move comes amid tensions between Doha and its Arab neighbors over its support for terrorist groups and the Muslim Brotherhood.

US President, Donald Trump, is reportedly furious over South Korea's decision to delay the full deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system pending an environmental assessment. Meanwhile, North Korea has claimed that the United States security services mugged its delegation carrying a diplomatic package in New York.