IS threatens attacks on USA, as Syria bombing intensifies

IS threatens attacks on USA, as Syria bombing intensifies
The Islamic State says it will attack Washington DC, and its anti-IS coalition allies as French war planes carried out massive air raids on IS targets in Syria.
5 min read
16 November, 2015
French air raids have been directed at IS targets in Raqqa [AFP]

French President Francois Hollande said parliament would this week begin examining a bill extending the state of emergency by three months, as the Islamic State group made new threats against the US and other Western and Arab stories.

"I decided to ask parliament starting Wednesday to examine a bill prolonging the state of emergency for three months," he told a rare joint sitting of both houses of parliament, calling on lawmakers to "adopt it by the end of the week".

He also called for the French constitution to be amended to "allow the authorities to act... against war-level terrorism".

There is widespread fears among Western security chiefs that Friday's terrorist attacks in Paris could be repeated elsewhere.

CIA director John Brennan warned Monday that the attacks in Paris were likely not a "one off event" and that he expects the Islamic State group has more operations in the pipeline.

"Security and intelligence services right now are working feverishly to see what else they can do in terms of uncovering it," he said at a Washington think tank.

"I would anticipate that this is not the only operation ISIL [IS] has in the pipeline," he said, using an alternate acronym for IS, the militant group that has seized large areas of Syria and Iraq.

New threat

On Monday, a video emerged reportedly from the Islamic State group where the group threatened to strike at targets the US capital Washington DC and other countries taking part in air raids against the organisation.

In a video, the extremist organisation made threats to countries in the anti-IS coalition that are currently taking part in air raids on targets in Iraq and Syria saying they will suffer "France's fate", according to Reuters.

The footage could not be independently verified.

The video comes after synchronised attacks were launched on a music venue, restaurant and other locations in Paris by IS-affiliated gunmen and suicide bombers on Friday night, which left at least 129 people dead.

Hollande addressed parliament on Monday and told the nation that France would be stepping up attacks against IS, in response to the killings.

Hollande told an exceptional meeting of both houses of parliament he would meet US President Barack Obama and Russia's Vladimir Putin in the coming days and called for a UN Security Council meeting over the fight against IS jihadists.

A grave Hollande said the attacks in the French capital "were acts of war".

They "were decided and planned in Syria, prepared and organised in Belgium and perpetrated on our soil with French complicity", he said.

In response, France would "intensify" operations in Syria, Hollande said a day after French jets pounded IS targets in the group's Syrian stronghold of Raqqa, its first military response to the Paris carnage.

Strikes by the US-led air coalition fighting the Islamic State group have been stepped up, and destroyed 116 fuel trucks used by the extremist organisation in eastern Syria, the Pentagon said on Monday.

In a statement, the Pentagon said the trucks were destroyed on Sunday near Albu Kamal, an IS-held town along Syria's border with Iraq.

Apparent French air strikes overnight on Sunday also hit weapons depots and a training camp in the de facto Syrian capital of the IS, a monitor said on Monday.

"There were at least 36 explosions overnight in Raqqa city, some caused by air strikes and some by weapons and explosives detonating after being hit," said Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

"The blasts shook the entire city. There were strikes on both the north and south of Raqqa," he told AFP.

Abdel Rahman said the strikes were believed to have been carried out by French aircraft.

Among the targets hit was Brigade 17, a military encampment including weapons stores and a training facility.

The Britain-based monitor could not immediately confirm any casualties in the strikes, which come after IS claimed responsibility for attacks that killed at least 129 people in Paris.

"IS has imposed a security alert on the city, and it is difficult to confirm information about casualties from hospitals there," Abdel Rahman said.

Raqqa city is the de facto Syrian capital of the Islamic State group's self-declared "caliphate," territory it controls in Syria and neighbouring Iraq.

It imposes its harsh interpretation of Islam on the territory, and Raqqa is often the scene of gruesome execution-style killings carried out by the group.

The city has been the regular target of air strikes carried out by the US-led coalition fighting IS, but also Syrian and Russian raids.

It was the first provincial capital to fall from government control after a coalition of rebels seized it in March 2013.

IS subsequently captured the city from other opposition forces, ousting them as establishing it as its key Syria base.

IS capital

Raqqa city is a regular target of strikes by US-led coalition aircraft, Syrian warplanes, and more recently Russian strikes, which were launched on 30 September.

Experts said France's strikes could be useful if they were based on solid information, but warned that intelligence gaps and the risks of civilian deaths have long been obstacles to targeting IS.

"If the French do have good intelligence on where they're targeting and they are doing it for good reason rather than to just lash out, then it could in the long term build into something useful," said IS expert and researcher Charlie Winter.

"But there is a big possibility that this is just air strikes driven by vengeance, which, while completely understandable, may not be the most pragmatic option."

He said IS' top leadership was unlikely to be in Raqqa, and that the group would seek to capitalise on the strikes by using any civilian casualties for propaganda.

"Within the next few hours I would expect we'll have photos, possibly a video out there of the damage that's been caused," he told AFP.

"There are sure to be civilian casualties at some point if there haven't been already, and those civilian casualties are sure to be paraded in front of the camera."