BEIRUT (AP) — In a rare ground attack deep into Syria, U.S. Army commandos killed a man described as the Islamic State’s head of oil operations, captured his wife and rescued a woman whom American officials said was enslaved.
A team of Delta Force commandos slipped across the border from Iraq under cover of darkness Saturday aboard Black Hawk helicopters and V-22 Osprey aircraft, according to a U.S. defense official knowledgeable about details of the raid. The official was not authorized to discuss the operation publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The Americans intended to capture a militant identified by U.S. officials as Abu Sayyaf. When they arrived at his location, a multi-story building, they met stiff resistance, the U.S. official said, and a firefight ensued, resulting in bullet-hole damage to the U.S. aircraft.
Abu Sayyaf was killed, along with an estimated dozen IS fighters, U.S. officials said. No American was killed or wounded.
Before the sun had risen, the commandos flew back to Iraq where Abu Sayyaf’s wife, Umm Sayyaf, was being questioned in U.S. custody, officials said. The goal was to gain intelligence about IS operations and any information about hostages, including American citizens, who were held by the group, according to Bernadette Meehan, spokeswoman for the U.S. National Security Council.
Abu Sayyaf was described by one official as the IS “emir of oil and gas,” although he also was targeted for his known association with the group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
U.S. officials said it was likely, given Abu Sayyaf’s position, that he knew about more than just the financial side of the group’s operations.
Despite the U.S. claims, much about the IS figure was in question. The name Abu Sayyaf has rarely been mentioned in Western reports about the extremist group and he is not known to be among terrorists for whom the U.S. has offered a bounty. The name was not known to counterterrorism officials who study IS and does not appear in reports compiled by think tanks and others examining the group’s hierarchy.
The U.S. official said Abu Sayyaf’s death probably has temporarily halted IS oil-revenue operations, critical to the group’s ability to carry out military operations in Syria and Iraq and to govern the population centers it controls.
But U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, cautioned against exaggerating the long-term gain from killing Abu Sayyaf.
He said IS, like al-Qaida, “has proven adept at replacing its commanders and we will need to keep up the pressure on its leadership and financing.”
A U.S. Treasury official told Congress in October that IS militants were earning about $1 million a day from black market oil sales alone, and getting several million dollars a month from wealthy donors, extortion rackets and other criminal activities, such as robbing banks. Kidnappings were another large source of cash.
U.S. airstrikes in Syria since September have frequently targeted IS oil-collection facilities in an effort to undermine the group’s finances.
IS controls much of northern and eastern Syria as well as northern and western Iraq, despite months of U.S. and coalition airstrikes and efforts by the U.S.-backed Iraqi army to retake territory. IS holds most of the oil fields in Syria and has declared a caliphate governed by a harsh version of Islamic law.
Also Saturday, activists said IS fighters pushed into the Syrian town of Palmyra, home to famed 2,000-year-old ruins.
The U.S. Army raid occurred one day after the U.S.-led campaign to roll back IS gains in Iraq suffered a significant setback in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province. IS fighters are reported to have captured a key government building in Ramadi and have established control over a substantial portion of the city, officials have said.
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, in a written statement Saturday praising the raid into Syria, said he was “gravely concerned” by the IS assault on Ramadi and that it threatened the stability and sovereignty of Iraq.
IS has made major inroads at Iraq’s Beiji oil refinery complex in recent days. Reports vary, but U.S. officials have said IS is largely in control of the refinery, as well as the nearby town of Beiji. It’s on the main route from Baghdad to Mosul, the main IS stronghold in northern Iraq.
U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter in Washington announced the raid, followed soon after by word from the White House.
Meehan, the NSC spokeswoman, said in a statement that the woman who was freed, a Yazidi, “appears to have been held as a slave” by Abu Sayyaf and his wife. She said the U.S. intends to return her to her family.
IS militants captured hundreds of members of the Yazidi religious minority in northern Iraq during their rampage across the country last summer.
A senior Obama administration official said Umm Sayyaf was being debriefed at an undisclosed location in Iraq to obtain intelligence about IS operations. The official was not authorized to discuss details of the operation by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The raid was the first known U.S. ground operation targeting IS militants in Syria. A U.S.-led coalition has been striking the extremists from the air for months, but the only previous time American troops set foot on the ground in Syria was in an unsuccessful commando mission to recover hostages last summer.
US SAYS IS HEAD OF OIL OPERATIONS KILLED IN US RAID IN SYRIA
The pattern for carpeting inside a casino can be, well, busy.
Why is that?
A few years ago, Wired theorized that bad carpeting is good for gambling. “That’s a theory backed up by Dave Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research, at the University of Nevada Las Vegas,” Pete Brook wrote at the time. “Schwartz theorizes that ‘casino carpet is known as an exercise in deliberate bad taste that somehow encourages people to gamble.'”
Ciara Green laughs at the notion, without dismissing it. She is head of public relations for the Pechanga Resort & Casino on the Pechanga Reservation in Southern California. It’s the largest casino in the Golden State, with a gaming floor larger than the one inside the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
“We at Pechanga are very aware of the so-called experts’ opinions, and what they think the casino carpet design is maybe designed for,” said Green. “We’ve heard everything from keeping you not looking down or making you stay awake …(to) the more practical possibility of perhaps maybe hiding some little stains.”
While she said she isn’t exactly sure why carpet patterns are so complicated, Green said that at Pechanga, “we try and work in a lot of natural elements, kind of bring the outside a little bit in.”
That crazy casino carpet? Here’s what’s under it
Thought experiment time, gang! Imagine that a bunch of DEA agents are caught in a scandal accepting prostitutes from drug cartels in Colombia. What do you think would result from this? Made your prediction yet? Good! Now let’s see what actually happened…
A long-time practitioner of Hinduism, Vedic Astrology, esotericism, Tantra, and Ayurvedic medicine, Craig Williams has been warded title of “Veda Kovid” and “Yogacharya” by David Frawley (Pandit Vamadeva Shastri) and the American Institute of Vedic Studies. He also has a Bachelor’s Degree in Religious Studies with a focus on Eastern Religions, and a Master’s Degree in Oriental Medicine.
In part one of a two-part interview, Craig gives us an overview of his just released book Cave of the Numinous (Theion Publishing). Here we look at Hinduism, esotericism, and the guru, among other subjects, laying the foundation for a more in depth conversation in part two.
From the publisher:
Highly anticipated and the result of over 25 years of initiatic study within authentic Guru lineages, Cave of the Numinous by Craig Williams is one of the very few genuine expositions of the Left Hand Path in general and Left Handed Tantra in particular.
As astronaut Chris Hadfield put it on Twitter, This is a “Bad thing to see out the spaceship window.” There will be a ground control attempt soon.
From Space.com’s report:
The Russian space agency Roscosmos is scrambling to regain control of a robotic Progress 59 cargo ship that appears to have suffered a serious malfunction shortly after launching into orbit early today (April 28).
Video from the Progress 59 spacecraft showed it in a dizzying spin, with the Earth and sun rapidly coming into and then out of frame. Russian flight controllers abandoned plans to attempt to dock the cargo ship with the International Space Station on Thursday (April 30), NASA spokesman Rob Navias said in a NASA TV update. That docking — originally scheduled for this morning, then pushed to Thursday — is now “indefinitely postponed,” Navias said.
Three strange buildings hidden away in an Argentine jungle may have been a secret lair meant to house Nazis who fled from Germany after World War II. According to the BBC, researchers from the University of Buenos Aires investigated the buildings after hearing local rumors that they had housed one of Hitler’s aides. While they reportedly don’t believe that specific rumor to be true, they say that they did find German coins and porcelain at the location. The coins were dated in the 1930s and ’40s. The buildings are located in the northeast corner of Argentina, in a nature reserve near the border of Paraguay.
IT’S LIKELY NO ONE EVER LIVED THERE
“Apparently, halfway through the Second World War, the Nazis had a secret project of building shelters for top leaders in the event of defeat,” research leader Daniel Schavelzon tells an Argentine newspaper, Clarín, according to a translation in The Telegraph, “inaccessible sites, in the middle of deserts, in the mountains, on a cliff, or in the middle of the jungle like this.”
The researchers reportedly told Clarín that the buildings’ architecture was notably different from anything in the area around them. But despite their oddities and apparent links to Nazis, the researchers say that the buildings’ exact purpose and the circumstances of their creation are still unknown. It’s likely that Nazis never actually lived there, because Argentina, ultimately, proved friendly to Nazis and allowed them to stay in the country quite freely.