Saturday 29 November 2014

ISIS 'beyond anything that we've seen' - USA warns

Doug Whelan

Published 29/08/2014 | 02:30

ISIS member waving the group's flag in Raqqa, Syria
ISIS member waving the group's flag in Raqqa, Syria

For much of the 2000s, Al Qaeda was vaunted by the international political establishment and media as the number one threat to global peace. It was part multinational stateless army, part bogeyman, intended to be feared due its decentralised nature and ability to strike anytime, anywhere. You have undoubtedly seen the many reports of a new foe to stability in the Middle East in recent months, variously named as ISIS, ISIL and simply the Islamic State.

The group was initially aligned with Al Qaeda in the region, until earlier this year when the terrorist group formally disassociated itself from ISIS, blaming the group's "notorious intractability" in matters of consultation and teamwork.

While the notion of terrorist groups squabbling over organisational matters has a somewhat humorous ring to it, when you see the headlines coming from Iraq and Syria - where ISIS has been growing in influence through ruthless and barbaric methods - it's clearly no laughing matter.

This week, in the aftermath of the execution of American photojournalist James Foley, US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel warned of the dangers ISIS presents. Speaking at a Pentagon briefing, Hagel also revealed that an attempt by US special forces to rescue Foley back in July had failed, and warned that the group poses a dire threat that must be taken seriously.

"[ISIS] is as sophisticated and well-funded as any group that we have seen," Hagel said. "They're beyond just a terrorist group. They marry ideology with tactical military prowess and they are tremendously well-funded."

Amid criticism of the failed rescue effort, Hagel said that the operation was flawlessly carried out, except that the hostages simply weren't where the commandos thought they would be.

"Intelligence doesn't come wrapped in a package with a bow," he said. "It is a mosaic of many pictures, of many factors. It's the responsibility of our government and our leaders to do all we can to take action when we believe there's a good chance to make a rescue effort successful."

As well as an effective public relations operation and a financial network, ISIS claims it has 50,000 fighters in Syria and 30,000 in Iraq. This week, the group seized control of a military base in northern Syria - its fourth such attack in a week.

Despite only coming to prominence this year, ISIS was founded in 2003 as a resistance to the American-led invasion of Iraq.

Cash Flow: Amazon's billon-dollar Twitch

Internet giant Amazon is continuing to evolve beyond retail and has become an online entertainment destination with the purchase of streaming site twitch.com for $970m. Twitch, launched in 2011, allows gamers to communicate with each other and stream live play.

The site received more than 50m visitors in July of this year alone, Reuters reports. All that time and user interaction is leading to an ever-growing advertising base that CEO Jeff Bezos is eager to tap into. "Broadcasting and watching gameplay is a global phenomenon," he said in a statement, "and Twitch has built a platform that brings together tens of millions of people who watch billions of minutes of games each month."

Amazon has invested vast amounts on entertainment in recent years, and is attempting to enter the original TV market with Amazon Studios.

Chinese Government blocks film festival

The 11th Beijing Independent Film Festival was prevented from opening last weekend when Chinese authorities blocked roads and seized computer files and other documents, organisers have said.

"In the past few years, when they forced us to cancel the festival, we just moved it to other places or delayed screenings," artistic director Wang Hongwei told AP. "But this year it is completely forbidden." This marks the most serious in a growing crackdown by the Communist government on non-state sanctioned media. "What does it mean to 'stir up trouble'?" art critic Li Xianting said. "It is when those with power lay siege to things that have been deemed by them as 'illegal' - which are in fact normal, day-to-day public events for the arts, religion and rights protection."

Irish Independent

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