Splinter group breaks from al Qaeda in North Africa

By Lamine Chikhi

By Lamine Chikhi

ALGIERS (Reuters) - A new armed group calling itself the Caliphate Soldiers in Algeria has split from al Qaeda's North African branch and sworn loyalty to the radical breakaway group Islamic State fighting in Syria and Iraq.

A breakaway of key Algerian commanders from Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, known as AQIM, would show deepening rivalry between al Qaeda's core command and the Islamic State over leadership of the transnational Islamist militancy.

In a communique, AQIM central region commander Khaled Abu

Suleimane, whose real name is Gouri Abdelmalek, claimed leadership of the new group, joined by an AQIM commander of an eastern region in Algeria, where the al Qaeda wing has its base.

"You have in the Islamic Maghreb men if you order them they will obey you," Suleimane said in reference to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State. "The Maghreb has deviated from the true path."

The communique was posted on jihadi websites. Algerian officials did not immediately comment on the statement.

The Algeria splinter group is the latest to side with Baghdadi over al Qaeda's aging chieftain Ayman al-Zawahri, as the Islamic State appeals to younger militants with successes in gaining territory in Iraq and Syria.

Baghdadi, who has declared himself "Caliph" or head of state, fell out with al Qaeda in 2013 over its expansion into Syria, where his followers carried out beheadings, crucifixions, and mass executions.

For some militants, Islamic State's creation of a jihadi bastion spanning western Iraq and eastern Syria, and its strong online presence, compare with al Qaeda's failure for almost a decade to carry out a major attack in the West.

NORTH AFRICAN JIHADISTS

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is just one of the fractured militant groups operating in North Africa, which has been a source of thousands of young fighters travelling from Libya, Tunisia and Morocco to Syria and Iraq.

Algeria, which itself recovered from a decade of conflict against its own Islamist fighters during which some 200,000 people died, is a strong U.S. ally in its fight against militants in the region.

But experts said the announcement will likely not have a major operational impact on the ground as AQIM has been focused on the Sahel region rather than OPEC member Algeria. Attacks are rarer now in Algeria though militants still have potential.

"The new group will try hard to make some noise, but it will be very difficult to execute big terrorist actions as Algerian security forces have knocked out most of the armed groups in Algeria," local security analyst Anis Rahmani said.

But it may appeal to new Islamist recruits in the Maghreb seeking to fight in Syria and Iraq, where Baghdadi's forces now control large swaths of territory and towns.

The newly created "Caliphate Soldiers" or "Jound al Khilafa fi Ard al Jazayer" is the second group to break with AQIM, the first one being Mokhtar Belmokhtar's group "Those who sign in Blood" who observers say are likely based now in southern Libya.

Belmokhtar, a veteran Algerian militant and former al Qaeda commander, was blamed for masterminding the attack on Algeria's In Amenas gas plant in early 2013, in which 40 oil workers, most of them foreigners, were killed after a four-day seige.

  • Protesters tear through D.C. after National Guard troops and Secret Service keep them from the White House
    Yahoo News

    Protesters tear through D.C. after National Guard troops and Secret Service keep them from the White House

    Downtown Washington, D.C., was filled with flames and broken glass in the early hours of Sunday morning as large groups of protesters moved through the city for the second straight night. The protesters caused extensive damage to businesses in the blocks surrounding the White House after a large contingent of law enforcement — including National Guard troops, the U.S. Park Police and the Secret Service — kept the demonstrators back from the president's residence. Protesters lit fires at multiple locations around the city and clashed with law enforcement, hurling fireworks and other projectiles at the officers.

  • A New York police officer drew his gun on protesters. Mayor Bill de Blasio says he 'should have his gun and badge taken away.'
    INSIDER

    A New York police officer drew his gun on protesters. Mayor Bill de Blasio says he 'should have his gun and badge taken away.'

    Seth Wenig/AP Photo A New York City police officer pointed his gun at peaceful protesters in Manhattan Sunday night. After a video of the incident trended on Twitter, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the officer's actions were "unacceptable" and he should "have his gun and badge taken away." On Saturday, de Blasio was widely criticized for defending police officers who drove into a protesting crowd, before backtracking on his comments Sunday.

  • U.S. judge no 'mere rubber stamp' in case of ex-Trump aide Flynn, lawyers say
    Reuters

    U.S. judge no 'mere rubber stamp' in case of ex-Trump aide Flynn, lawyers say

    The U.S. judge in the criminal case against President Donald Trump's former adviser Michael Flynn defended himself on Monday, saying it was proper to seek outside views on the Justice Department's request to drop a charge to which Flynn has pleaded guilty. Lawyers representing U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan said in a court filing that he is not a "mere rubber stamp" and needed to carefully consider the department's "unprecedented" request. Democrats and former federal prosecutors have accused Attorney General William Barr of politicizing the criminal justice system to go light on Trump associates in key cases.

  • Wife of Derek Chauvin says in divorce filing she wants to change her name
    NBC News

    Wife of Derek Chauvin says in divorce filing she wants to change her name

    The estranged wife of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin intends to change her name and doesn't want any spousal support, her divorce petition revealed on Monday. Kellie May Chauvin, 45, filed for divorce on Saturday, a day after her 44-year-old husband of nearly 10 years, was arrested and charged with third-degree murder in the death of George Floyd, who died in police custody last week. The eight-page divorce petition, which was made public on Monday, revealed few details of the union, beyond basic language that "there has been an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage relationship of the parties within the definition of" Minnesota statutes.

  • Hong Kong's Tiananmen commemoration banned by police for first time in three decades
    The Telegraph

    Hong Kong's Tiananmen commemoration banned by police for first time in three decades

    Hong Kong police on Monday banned an upcoming vigil marking the Tiananmen crackdown anniversary citing the coronavirus pandemic, the first time the gathering has been halted in three decades. The candlelight June 4 vigil usually attracts huge crowds and is the only place on Chinese soil where such a major commemoration of the anniversary is still allowed. Last year's gathering was especially large and came just a week before seven months of pro-democracy protests and clashes exploded onto the city's streets, sparked initially by a plan to allow extraditions to the authoritarian mainland.

  • George Floyd: Anonymous hackers re-emerge amid US unrest
    BBC

    George Floyd: Anonymous hackers re-emerge amid US unrest

    As the United States deals with widespread civil unrest across dozens of cities, "hacktivist" group Anonymous has returned from the shadows. The hacker collective was once a regular fixture in the news, targeting those it accused of injustice with cyber-attacks. After years of relative quiet, it appears to have re-emerged in the wake of violent protests in Minneapolis over the death of George Floyd, promising to expose the "many crimes" of the city's police to the world.

  • Biden Proposes Training Cops to Shoot Attackers in the Leg to Reduce Fatalities
    National Review

    Biden Proposes Training Cops to Shoot Attackers in the Leg to Reduce Fatalities

    Joe Biden on Monday suggested that police forces could train officers to shoot attackers in the legs in order to reduce potential fatalities. There is “the idea that instead of standing there and teaching a cop when there's an unarmed person, coming at him with a knife or something, to shoot him in the leg instead of in the heart,” Biden said. Biden made his remarks while meeting with African American community leaders at the Bethel AME Church in Wilmington, Del. The former vice president was discussing the widespread protests touched off by the killing of George Floyd, an African American man, at the hands of white police officers in Minneapolis, Minn.

  • Minnesota National Guard Opened Fire on a Vehicle, Commander Says
    Military.com

    Minnesota National Guard Opened Fire on a Vehicle, Commander Says

    A soldier in Minneapolis opened fire on a speeding vehicle that posed a threat Sunday night -- the second known instance of a National Guard member discharging a weapon during the nationwide mass protests, the Minnesota National Guard commander said Monday. "Our soldier fired three rounds from his rifle in response to a direct threat" from a vehicle that drove at a position held by local law enforcement supported by the Guard, said Army Maj. Gen. Jon Jensen, adjutant general of the Minnesota National Guard. Read Next: Army Vet Lawmaker: Invoke Insurrection Act, Deploy Active-Duty Troops to Riots The driver ignored warnings to stop or turn away before the soldier opened fire, Jensen added.

  • India Has Lots of Nuclear Weapons
    The National Interest

    India Has Lots of Nuclear Weapons

    India is estimated to have produced enough military plutonium for 150 to 200 nuclear warheads, but has likely produced only 130 to 140,” according to Hans Kristensen and Matt Korda of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists. Nonetheless, additional plutonium will be required to produce warheads for missiles now under development, and India is reportedly building several new plutonium production facilities. In addition, “India continues to modernize its nuclear arsenal, with at least five new weapon systems now under development to complement or replace existing nuclear-capable aircraft, land-based delivery systems, and sea-based systems.

  • Plane carrying Iran scientist jailed in US has taken off: Zarif
    AFP

    Plane carrying Iran scientist jailed in US has taken off: Zarif

    Iran's foreign minister said Tuesday that a plane had taken off from arch-foe the United States carrying scientist Sirous Asgari after his apparent release from a US prison. Asgari was accused by a US court in 2016 of stealing trade secrets while on an academic visit to Ohio, but the 59-year-old scientist from Tehran's Sharif University of Technology was acquitted in November.

  • Officers kneel in solidarity with protesters in several cities
    CBS News

    Officers kneel in solidarity with protesters in several cities

    Protesters have been taking to the streets of several U.S. cities for nearly a week in response to the death of George Floyd. There have been a number of violent clashes between law enforcement and demonstrators across the country — but in some cities, officers have knelt in solidarity with demonstrators. In Coral Gables, a city near Miami, a peaceful protest attended by hundreds on Saturday included a moment of prayer with police officers, CBS Miami reported.

  • 2 Atlanta police officers were fired and 3 were placed on desk duty for their use of force in arresting 2 college students during a Saturday night protest
    INSIDER

    2 Atlanta police officers were fired and 3 were placed on desk duty for their use of force in arresting 2 college students during a Saturday night protest

    Two Atlanta police officers were fired Sunday for their conduct at a protest Saturday, the city's mayor and police chief said. Investigators Mark Gardner and Ivory Streeter, who were both members of the department's fugitive unit, were terminated from the police force, a spokesperson for the Atlanta Police Department told Insider. Investigators Carlos Smith and Willie Sauls, and Sergeant Lonnie Hood, were placed on administrative duty, the spokesperson said.

  • WHO pushes to keep ties with 'generous' U.S. despite Trump's exit move
    Reuters

    WHO pushes to keep ties with 'generous' U.S. despite Trump's exit move

    The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday praised the United States' "immense" and "generous" contribution to global health in a push to salvage relations after President Donald Trump said he was severing ties with the U.N. agency. Accusing it of pandering to China and overlooking an initially secretive response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Trump said on Friday he was ending Washington's relationship with the WHO. "The United States' contribution and generosity towards global health over many decades has been immense, and it has made a great difference in public health all around the world," he said.

  • Supreme Court upholds Puerto Rico's financial oversight board
    NBC News

    Supreme Court upholds Puerto Rico's financial oversight board

    The Supreme Court on Monday upheld the oversight board established by Congress to help Puerto Rico out of a devastating financial crisis that has been exacerbated by the coronavirus outbreak, recent earthquakes and damage from Hurricane Maria in 2017. The justices reversed a lower court ruling that threatened to throw the island's recovery efforts into chaos. In a unanimous holding, the court will allow the oversight board's work to pull the island out of the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history to proceed.

  • Downtown D.C. burns after another night of protests and provocation near the White House
    Yahoo News

    Downtown D.C. burns after another night of protests and provocation near the White House

    The capital was awash with anger and pain as tear gas blew along the streets and rubber bullets flew Sunday night and into the early hours of Monday morning. Protesters clashed with law enforcement for the third straight evening outside the White House, and numerous businesses were vandalized by rioters defying a citywide curfew. Protesters gathered throughout Sunday in Lafayette Park, which is across the street from the White House and has been a focal point of the demonstrations that began here Friday evening.

  • Hong Kong blocks Tiananmen vigil; rush on for UK passports
    Associated Press

    Hong Kong blocks Tiananmen vigil; rush on for UK passports

    Hong Kong police rejected an application Monday by organizers for an annual candlelight vigil marking the anniversary this week of the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown, as residents rushed to apply for passports that could allow them to move to the United Kingdom It would be the first time in 30 years that the vigil, which draws a huge crowd to an outdoor space, is not held in Hong Kong. The vigil commemorates China's deadly military crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Beijing's Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989. The decision follows a vote by China's ceremonial parliament to bypass Hong Kong's legislature and enact national security legislation for the semi-autonomous territory.

  • Biden: ‘I know I’ve made mistakes’
    Yahoo News Video

    Biden: ‘I know I’ve made mistakes’

    Former Vice President Joe Biden on Monday attended a campaign event in Delaware and addressed criticism by saying, “I know I've made mistakes.

  • Who was David McAtee? Community praises Louisville business owner killed Monday by authorities
    USA TODAY

    Who was David McAtee? Community praises Louisville business owner killed Monday by authorities

    David McAtee, the owner of YaYa's BBQ, was shot and killed by authorities early Monday morning, an incident under investigation by state and local police. McAtee was a "community pillar," said his mother, Odessa Riley. Riley was among the hundreds who swarmed the corner of 26th and Broadway on Monday where police and National Guard personnel were breaking up a "large crowd" in a parking lot, according to law enforcement officials.

  • The coronavirus is disappearing in Italy, according to Italian doctors
    Business Insider

    The coronavirus is disappearing in Italy, according to Italian doctors

    PIERO CRUCIATTI/AFP via Getty Images Italy has been one of the worst-affected countries in the global coronavirus pandemic. However, the COVID-19 virus is now disappearing in the country according to Italian doctors Alberto Zangrillo, who heads a hospital in Milan, said that "in reality, the virus clinically no longer exists in Italy." A leading doctor in Genoa said that "the strength the virus had two months ago is not the same strength it has today."

  • Pompeo: U.S. Could Make Moves Against International Criminal Court In “Coming Days”
    The National Interest

    Pompeo: U.S. Could Make Moves Against International Criminal Court In “Coming Days”

    U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the United States will “push back” against the “corrupt” International Criminal Court in the coming days. Pompeo has slammed the international tribunal over its inquiries into U.S. actions in Afghanistan and Israeli actions in the Palestinian territories. “You'll see in the coming days a series of announcements not just from the State Department, from all across the United States government, that attempt to push back against what the ICC is up to,” he said.

  • Thousands of Complaints Do Little to Change Police Ways
    The New York Times

    Thousands of Complaints Do Little to Change Police Ways

    In nearly two decades with the Minneapolis Police Department, Derek Chauvin faced at least 17 misconduct complaints, none of which derailed his career. Over the years, civilian review boards came and went, and a federal review recommended that the troubled department improve its system for flagging problematic officers. All the while, Chauvin tussled with a man before firing two shots, critically wounding him.

  • Pakistan prime minister defends lifting lockdown, urges nation to 'live with the virus'
    Reuters

    Pakistan prime minister defends lifting lockdown, urges nation to 'live with the virus'

    Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday cited economic losses to justify his government's decision to lift a coronavirus lockdown despite rising infections and deaths, urging people to "live with the virus." Pakistan has rolled back almost all shutdown measures, primarily to avert an economic meltdown. The South Asian nation of 220 million has reported 72,160 novel coronavirus cases and 1,543 deaths, which jumped lately to as high as 80 a day.

  • Deadlock as Qatar embargo marks three-year anniversary
    AFP

    Deadlock as Qatar embargo marks three-year anniversary

    In June 2017, Saudi Arabia led its Gulf allies the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, along with Egypt, to cut all ties with Qatar, accusing it of backing radical Islamist movements and Iran -- a charge denied by Doha. On May 24, 2017, a statement attributed to Qatar's ruler appears on the state news agency's website, apparently endorsing Islamist movements and criticising US President Donald Trump. Qatar says the site has been hacked and that the statement is fake, but it is picked up and published in regional media.

  • A black congresswoman was pepper-sprayed by police while marching with George Floyd protesters in Ohio
    INSIDER

    A black congresswoman was pepper-sprayed by police while marching with George Floyd protesters in Ohio

    Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images Congresswoman Joyce Beatty represents Ohio's 3rd Congressional District in the House of Representatives. While marching in a protest regarding the death of George Floyd, Beatty, who is black, tried to deescalate a confrontation between protesters and police and was hit with pepper spray. "While it was peaceful, there were times when people got off the curb, into the streets, but too much force is not the answer to this," Beatty said.

  • The officer who stood by as George Floyd died is Asian American. We need to talk about that.
    NBC News

    The officer who stood by as George Floyd died is Asian American. We need to talk about that.

    The image of now-fired Hmong American police officer Tou Thao, standing with his back turned as George Floyd died last Monday in Minneapolis police custody, has ignited a discussion around how to approach the topic of anti-blackness in the Asian American community. Thao has been described by activists as a symbol of Asian American complicity in anti-blackness following the death of Floyd, a black man who begged for his life while then-officer Derek Chauvin dug his knee into his neck. Several experts expressed that this is a pivotal moment for Asian Americans to tackle the subject in a productive way, beginning with unpacking the biases in their own communities by first confronting the historical context behind anti-blackness.