Here’s your Situation Update for May 22, 2018

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Marines return to Sangin to advise Afghan National Army in combat operations (Department of Defense photo)

Welcome to your Situation Update, a regular feature from Insurgentsia that covers irregular war and runs weekday mornings.

The weather forecast this morning is cloudy with a 30% chance of you skipping over the weather forecast to get to the main content. I hope that helps you wherever you are located as you read this.

The Department of Defense chose the ninth general to run the war in Afghanistan. Lt. Gen. Scott Miller comes from Joint Special Operations Command and will take over the war as it enters its 18th year this fall. Outgoing Gen. Nicholson visited Farah, the city that was overrun by the Taliban last week. Nicholson boasted with the Afghan defense minister that the time it took for Afghan and coalition forces to react to Taliban fighters (overrunning the city, killing Afghan security forces, and laughing and joking while strolling in the streets) represented progress.

Israel claimed to be the first country to use the F-35 in combat in remarks to local media. “We are flying the F-35 all over the Middle East and have already attacked twice on two different fronts,” the Israel air force chief said. The most advanced fighters in the world are flying in the Middle East as foreign powers fight a proxy war in Syria. Last winter, Russian Su-57s were spotted in Syria. American F-35s and F-22s are also in the area of operations.

Iraq sentenced a Belgian to death for being a member of Islamic State in a 10 minute hearing. The Belgian appeared in an IS video threatening Europe. So far, Iraqi courts have sentenced 300 members of IS to death including 100 foreigners. Some sentenced to death were wives of IS fighters with small children.

Turkey sentenced coup planners to life in court on Monday. 106 people involved in the 2016 failed coup received maximum sentences under Turkish law. Most evidence against them was from two participants who turned state’s witness for reduced sentences.

Indonesian police killed 14 suspected terrorists and arrested dozens more in raids following suicide bombings last week. Those killed were people who “resisted,” said the police chief.

An unclaimed bombing killed 16 people in Afghanistan today. The bombing occurred in Kandahar, a province known for its heavy Taliban presence.

Your baby powder could be funding Islamic State in Afghanistan (IS-K) said advocacy group Global Witness in a new report. IS-K is illegally operating talc mines that is exported and makes its way to the United States and Europe.

This concludes your Situation Update. Questions may be asked in the comments section and answers will be unhelpful. To receive these updates in your inbox, use the follow button on the sidebar (web) or below (mobile).

Here’s your Situation Update for May 21, 2018

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Department of Defense photo

Welcome to your Situation Update, a regular feature from Insurgentsia that covers irregular war and runs weekday mornings.

The weather forecast this morning is humid with a 50% chance of hate-reading something today. I hope that helps you wherever you are located as you read this.

The Syrian army captured the last rebel stronghold near Damascus, the completely destroyed Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp. This marks the first time since the civil war began seven years ago that the Syrian government controlled its capital and surrounding neighborhoods. Rebels still control territory in the Northwest and Southwest and foreign governments like Turkey and the United States control portions of Syria as well.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowed to crush Iranian proxies around the world in a starkly undiplomatic speech to the Heritage Foundation, a right-wing think tank in Washington, D.C. Meanwhile, a former Iranian proxy just won the most seats in parliament in the Iraqi election. So good luck with that, Mike.

Violence in Afghanistan is getting worse. Attacks are becoming more frequent in Kabul and locals are dealing with the same PTSD as returning American servicemembers, but they don’t get to escape.

Speaking of PTSD, Gazan paramedics are also suffering as they treated hundreds of injuries during last week’s protests at the border fence with Israel. Most injuries were tear gas and gunshot wounds from Israeli security forces. “I notice when I’m talking to my neighbors or my family, I get angry easily,” said one medic.

At NATO, where southern members have felt frustrated at a lack of attention, the removal of an Italian painting is “not a metaphor” according to the Italian ambassador. NATO will plan how to address southern members’ security concerns including counterterrorism and refugees from Africa and the Middle East.

Multiple bombings injured three people in Thailand on Sunday. A decades-long separatist insurgency has been taking place in the predominantly Buddhist Thailand’s Malay, Muslim provinces.

The Saudi military destroyed a Houthi missile fired at Jazan airbase. Reuters provided this context:

“The Houthis have fired a salvo of missiles at Saudi Arabia in recent months, including the capital, Riyadh, while the coalition launched thousands of air strikes against Houthi-held areas, killing hundreds of civilians at hospitals, schools and markets.”

This concludes your Situation Update. Questions may be asked in the comments section and answers will be meaningless. To receive these updates in your inbox, use the follow button on the sidebar (web) or below (mobile).

Here’s your Situation Update for May 18, 2018

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U.K. soldiers in Afghanistan in 2010 (NATO photo)

Welcome to your Situation Update, a regular feature from Insurgentsia that covers irregular war and runs weekday mornings.

The weather forecast this morning is sunny with a 90% chance of disastrously thinking your self-esteem requires outside validation. I hope that helps you wherever you are located as you read this.

An Iranian-backed insurgency in Bahrain might be good for the U.S. says the former American ambassador. The Washington Post interviewed imprisoned Shiite insurgents in the majority Shiite, Sunni ruled country. They said they received training from Iran or Iranian-backed militias in Iraq, confirming that Iran is supporting a low-level insurgency. Yet the fact that the insurgency is supported by Iran might be the reason no attacks have been made against U.S. forces in Bahrain. Iranian support means some Iranian control and Iran does not want to risk direct conflict with the United States. Bahrain is home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.

Trump asked, U.K. may deliver troops to Afghanistan, but also maybe not because troop numbers are down, overseas operation are many, and an internal poll of British forces says 61% of troops consider morale to be low.

Kuwait authored a U.N. resolution to send peacekeeping troops to Palestine, but it will likely never pass because it would require no veto from the United States. The United States historically has voted against all U.N. action in support of Palestine or condemning Israel.

The U.S. accused Cameroon of “targeted killings” against English speakers in a press conference today. Cameroon has been fighting Anglophone separatists for 18 months and has killed unarmed civilians and burned down English-speaking villages.

The cause of explosions at Hama military airport in Syria today has not been identified, but Israel has been conducting air strikes in Syria recently. 11 Syrian soldiers are reported dead.

The U.N. said 2018 was the worst year yet in the Syrian Civil War today. The official also said Syria was the worst war in modern history for attacks on protected hospitals and medical personnel.

Egypt killed 19 militants in Sinai in the last few days. Egypt is in the midst of a three-month long operation to clear the Sinai peninsula of Islamist fighters including Islamic State.

This concludes your Situation Update. Questions may be asked in the comments section and answers will be given if the questions do not end in a preposition. To receive these updates in your inbox, use the follow button on the sidebar (web) or below (mobile).

Here’s your Situation Update for May 17th, 2018

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Israeli Defense Force photo

Welcome to your Situation Update, a regular feature from Insurgentsia that covers irregular war and runs weekday mornings.

The weather forecast this morning is sunny with a 20% chance of emotional reasoning. I hope that helps you wherever you are located as you read this.

Most of the Palestinians killed by Israel were Hamas said a senior Hamas official to a Palestinian news organization. Hamas is an Islamist political party that runs Gaza and includes a militant wing whose mission is to destroy Israel. Another spokesperson for Hamas said that they were paying for the funerals of 50 of the killed whether they were Hamas or not. A third Hamas official said it is “natural to see members or supporters of Hamas in large numbers” at protests like the one at the border fence and that those killed were protesting peacefully. Human rights groups say it is irrelevant if those killed were affiliated with Hamas if they were killed while unarmed and not posing a threat to Israeli security forces.

Election-related violence continued in Iraqi Kurdistan yesterday according to the chief of the electoral commission. Several polling stations in Kirkuk were under threat of armed men to change the election results. “The employees of the commission are in a hostage situation,” said the chief.

Islamic State, diminished in Iraq in Syria, is still active in other parts of the world. The Wall Street Journal published an overview of all the places militant groups aligned with IS are still operating including Afghanistan and West Africa.

There is good news in Afghanistan according to a corrected Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) report that showed Afghan troop decline is not as bad as once thought. Okay, I lied. It’s not good news. SIGAR said the corrected numbers still show a “sharp decline,” just not quite as sharp as before.

India declared a Ramadan ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir, the first one in 18 years. Indian forces occupy Jammu and Kashmir and are engaged in continuing operations against Muslim separatists there. Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based separatist group, called the cease-fire a “sin” and will not honor it.

Islamic State claimed the attack on Indonesian police yesterday by four men armed with swords.

This concludes your Situation Update. Questions may be asked in the comments section and answers will be given only if they paint the author in a good light. To receive these updates in your inbox, use the follow button on the sidebar (web) or below (mobile).

Here’s your Situation Update for May 16th, 2018

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U.S. Marine at a training range in Jordan (Department of Defense photo)

Welcome to your Situation Update, a regular feature from Insurgentsia that covers irregular war and runs weekday mornings.

The weather forecast this morning is wet with a 60% chance of repeating your past mistakes forever. I hope that helps you wherever you are located as you read this.

Taliban forces left Farah this morning without a shot fired. One Farah resident told the New York Times: “The night was calm. It shows the utmost incompetence of our forces. The Taliban were wandering the Farah city streets openly without fear as if they had lived there a long time, making jokes with their friends and telling citizens to stay calm and not worry.” Meanwhile, the Taliban captured Dara-e Bom in Badghis Province after the Afghan soldiers and police assigned to the area fled.

In another part of Afghanistan, Islamic State still controls territory they established four years ago, despite efforts of U.S. special operations teams and Afghan forces. At the farthest checkpoint into the valley partially controlled by the Afghan franchise of Islamic State (IS-K), the local Afghan government forces do not man checkpoints 24 hours a day, so when they leave IS-K comes and mines them.

Israeli Defense Forces are still killing Palestinians in Gaza, but yesterday they only killed two.

Four sword-wielding men attacked a police checkpoint in Indonesia today. The men rammed their vehicle into the police officers, killing one, and then dismounted to attack with their swords. The police shot dead the assailants. The attack comes shortly after the multiple bombings on Monday by a family with jihadist allegiances, but the motive of today’s attackers has not yet been identified.

Libyan National Army forces began the operation to retake Derna in northeastern Benghazi. Derna is infamous for supplying jihadists to foreign conflicts. The Libyan National Army (LNA) does not answer to the internationally recognized government in Tripoli, but rather the unrecognized government in Tobruk. The LNA has cleared most of Eastern Libya of jihadist fighters.

Violence in sub-Saharan Africa displaced twice the number of people it did last year says a new report from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center. The Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and Ethiopia were the most affected by internal displacement.

A suicide bomber killed several people in Iraq today in Tarmiyah, a small town 15 miles north of Baghdad. The attack took place at a funeral meeting for a leader in Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU). The PMU is an organization comprising of dozens of militias, brought together in 2014 to fight Islamic State.

This concludes your Situation Update. Please keep your questions. To receive these updates in your inbox, use the follow button on the sidebar (web) or below (mobile).

Here’s your Situation Update for May 15th, 2018

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A U.S. Marine on a patrol near Bost Airfield, Afghanistan, April 21, 2018 (Department of Defense photo)

Welcome to your Situation Update, a regular feature from Insurgentsia that covers irregular war and runs weekday mornings.

The weather forecast this morning is humid with a 30% chance of reaching a level of cynicism so deep it will be considered transcendental. I hope that helps you wherever you are located as you read this.

“The city is closed, people are panicked and in a state of fear. Some people left their homes and fled the city, some are trapped,” said an Afghan Minister of Parliament from Farah, a city of 50,000 that was mostly captured by Taliban fighters today. The attack began at 2:00 a.m. local time and quickly overran most of the city causing the governor of the province to flee. Some areas of the city including the police headquarters are still contested. If Farah is completely taken, it will be the second major city taken by the Taliban since the U.S. invasion in 2001. “We do look towards a victory in Afghanistan, but not a military victory. The victory will be a political reconciliation.” said Secretary of Defense James Mattis earlier this month.

“We can’t put all these people in jail,” said an Israeli government spokesperson when asked why the IDF was shooting dead protesters at the fence enclosing occupied Gaza. The U.N. Humans Rights Commissioner said among those killed are “women, children, journalists, first responders and bystanders.”

Maybe we didn’t export American-style democracy to Iraq after all, since Kurdish political parties engaged in a gunfight after election results were announced. Many expected the two major political parties in Iraqi Kurdistan, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), to fair poorly in the election after the many political losses the Kurds faced after the failed referendum last year. After local news announced that the KDP and PUK gained seats, the leading opposition party, Gorran, accused them of election fraud. In response, the PUK sent Peshmerga fighters in technicals to shoot at Gorran’s headquarters and a short gunfight ensued. Nothing says “this was a legitimate election” like attacking your political rival’s headquarters with machine guns.

Iraq continued air strikes in Syria this week and announced it destroyed an Islamic State “command and logistics support center.” Before these strikes, Iraq had not attacked its neighbors since the 1991 invasion of Kuwait. After decades of American destruction and assistance, it is now able to once again.

Houthis rockets struck military targets in SaudiArabia according to their television media division. Houthi rocket attacks in Saudi Arabia are the reason the Department of Defense says it deployed Special Forces soldiers to the Saudi border with Yemen.

This concludes your Situation Update. Please keep your questions until the end of briefing. To receive these updates in your inbox, use the follow button on the sidebar (web) or below (mobile).

Here’s your Situation Update for February 26, 2018

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Department of Defense photo

Welcome to your Situation Update, a regular feature from Insurgentsia that covers irregular war and runs weekday mornings. The scope of these posts will cover small wars, but big things can come in small packages.

The weather forecast this morning is clear with a 30% chance of reflexively calling someone you don’t like at work a Russian bot. I hope that helps you wherever you are located as you read this.

“It’s high time to stop this hell on earth,” said the United Nations General Secretary referring to the cease-fire in Syria. Adopted over the weekend, the 30-day ceasefire was drafted in response to the relentless campaign by Syrian government forces on a suburb of Damascus that has killed hundreds, targeted protected civilians, and possibly used chemical weapons. Unfortunately, the cease-fire has yet to have any effect, as Syrian government forces continue to attack eastern Ghouta under the pretense of attacking Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), a militant group that is effectively a rebranded al-Qaida.

“The patriarchy really is over,” joked a Kurdish woman in Kurdish-controlled northern Syria in this article about how Marxist theory from an imprisoned terrorist in Turkey has revolutionized the power women have in Kurdish society. But as Kurdish militias like the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and its female counterpart, the Women’s Protection Units (YPJ) liberate majority Arab towns from Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIS or Daesh), these Arab areas, traditionally male-dominated and conservative, also get Kurdish-created feminist governments. One Arab resident of Manbij told the New York Times, “To understand the current situation, think of ISIS, but at the other end of the spectrum.” He’s making a point about radicalism, but “the opposite of ISIS” seems like pretty high praise to me.

Three Taliban attacks in southern Afghanistan killed 20 Afghan soldiers on Saturday. In one attack, Taliban fighters used an American Humvee as a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED), packing it explosives and detonating it. During the attacks the Taliban fighters stole another American Humvee and captured “a lot of light and heavy weapons.”

Russian state media tried to pass off a video game as footage from Syria in a bizarre example of Russian disinformation in the news. This would be like Fox News showing footage of Call of Duty and saying it was from heroic action in Iraq. We praise the Russians for being good at disinformation, but they do so much of it that maybe it’s just the successes that get attention while these obvious failures slide under the radar.

Turkey occupied a portion of Syria’s Afrin province that it shares a border with. The campaign to enter Afrin has met resistance both from the YPG that Turkey is attempting to destroy and pro-Assad militias sent to assist the YPG in repelling Turkey. The Turkish army said the operation meant it was ready for a “new battle” and deployed special forces units to the area.

Missing Nigeria girls now number 110 after a Boko Haram attack last week. Previous reports said 75 girls were missing and that they had all been rescued.

Plan to truck oil from Northern Iraq to Iranian refineries delayed due to security concerns. Iraq recently launched an offensive to clear the area of militants, but now Iran is concerned it cannot guarantee the trucks will not have explosives on them.

Questions still linger over an American airstrike in Iraq that occurred in January in Anbar province. The town was not under IS control and it struck the police chief and other security forces as they investigated where a raid was conducted by U.S. forces and Iraqi Army. The locals do not understand why their police chief was target and the U.S. is mum on the reason for the strike. One theory is a local used the American air power to solve a personal problem.

Despite over a decade of supporting the troops, women veterans don’t feel supported says a woman veteran in this op-ed for The Atlantic. According to the piece, 74% of women veterans don’t feel supported by the general public.

This concludes your Situation Update. Questions may be posted in the comments section. Existential questions must be pondered silently. To receive these in your inbox daily, use the follow button on the sidebar (web) or below (mobile). Your next Situation Update will be Tuesday, February 27th, 2018.

Here’s your Situation Update for February 21, 2018

Department of Defense photo

Welcome to your Situation Update, a regular feature from Insurgentsia that runs weekday mornings (except when it doesn’t, like yesterday). The scope of these posts will cover small wars with big budgets.

The weather forecast this morning is freezing with a 40% chance of a disappointment over things you can’t control. I hope that helps you wherever you are located as you read this.

The Syrian government is killing people by the hundreds in a Damascus suburb including women, children, and aid workers. The Syrian government has vowed “no quarter” in the rebel-held area. Civilians were never allowed to evacuate. The Syrian government is targeting civilian populations and hospitals. One video uploaded to Twitter showed a now common “double tap” tactic, where an air strike is followed by a second after rescue workers respond to the scene.

The Taliban overran three checkpoints in Western Afghanistan killing 20 police officers. The fighters were wearing night vision goggles. This is the second attack in the area by Taliban fighters wearing night vision devices. The police officers do not have night vision devices themselves. This tactical advantage was once enjoyed by American forces over its enemies in Afghanistan and elsewhere. The goggles are of Russian origin.

Turkey and Iran-backed pro-Assad forces clashed in Northern Syria in a new twist in the competition between regional powers waging war there. Keeping the alliances and conflicts straight between the Syrian government, Iran, Russia, Turkey, the Gulf States, and the rebel militias has never been easy, but alliances are being strained as the interests of regional powers compete.

Two French soldiers were killed and a colonel injured by fighters in Mali. The French military has been operating there since 2013, when it intervened to stop Islamic fighters from overthrowing the government.

More than 90 schoolgirls in Nigeria are missing after a Boko Haram attack. “I saw girls crying and wailing in three Tata vehicles and they were crying for help,” said a witness. This is the largest abduction of schoolgirls in Nigeria by Boko Haram since 270 went missing in 2014, sparking the #bringbackourgirls social media movement amplified by First Lady Michelle Obama.

So we fixed the glitch. The latest Pentagon budget does not including salaries for Iraqi Kurdish militias. The fighters, collectively known as the Peshmerga and long-time U.S. allies, stopped receiving salaries from the U.S. government when the Kurdistan Regional Government held an independence referendum against American wishes in September. The latest budget hints the temporary halt in payments may be permanent.

Islamic State fighters from Iraq and Syria are relocating to the Philippines. The fighters are joining rebel groups already operating in the country’s south.

A U.S. air strike killed three al Shabaab fighters in Somalia said a spokesman for U.S. Africa Command, adding that no civilians were killed in the attack.

This concludes your Situation Update. Questions may be posted in the comments section, but answers have their own value that is completely independent from outside perception, just like you. To receive these in your inbox daily, use the follow button on the sidebar (web) or below (mobile). Your next Situation Update will be Thursday, February 22th, 2018.

Here’s your Situation Update for February 19th, 2018

M777 A2 Howitzer fire mission

Department of Defense photo

Welcome to your Situation Update, a feature from Insurgentsia that runs weekday mornings (except when it doesn’t, like last Friday). The scope of these posts will cover small wars, full hearts, can’t lose.

The weather forecast this morning is unseasonably warm with a 60% chance of media-induced cognitive dissonance. I hope that helps you wherever you are located as you read this.

“A front against Israel where there is no war but also no peace,” writes the New York Times in a piece about the Iranian presence in Syria. While Iran deployed its own military and facilitated the organization of foreign militias to fight for Assad in the Syrian Civil War, Western think tanks see the potential for a permanent presence to counter Israel in the region, similar to the model it used with Hezbollah in Lebanon. Such a model has sparked multiple Israeli invasions of Lebanon. Over the weekend, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu gave a speech brandishing a piece of an Iranian drone, threatening war.

A gunman attacked a church in Russia and Islamic State claimed responsibility. Countering violent extremism has become a discipline of study and an industry of its own, but this quote highlights why it is important to learn the basics: “Churchgoers said they had prevented more casualties by closing the door to the church and stopping the attacker from getting inside.”

Four U.S. soldiers died in Niger in October and the New York Times wrote a staggering account of their last moments with a visual aid detailing their last steps. It’s heartbreaking.

In Kabul, suicide attacks occur monthly. Street cleaners have to deal with the aftermath. “We found hands, feet — even a head. I couldn’t eat for the next two days. I was horrified,” says one.

Damascus suburb endures death and misery as it has for years and will continue to as long as outside powers decide to continue the war in Syria. Regional powers focus on more strategically important places while residents wonder what their children will eat and if there will be a tomorrow.

Three Iranian police were killed in Tehran in protests by Sufi Muslims against the government. A bus drove into a formation of Iranian riot police. The protests were in support of jailed Sufi leaders.

Turkey adds the Syrian government to its list of potential enemies having already threatened the United States in its campaign against the Kurdish YPG in northern Syria. Turkey threatening the Assad regime would have been good news to the U.S. and rebel forces in 2012, but today it just adds another violent dimension to a brutal conflict that shows no signs of ending.

This concludes your Situation Update. Questions may be posted in the comments section, but answers are having a great, but very reflective, President’s Day. To receive these in your inbox daily, use the follow button on the sidebar (web) or below (mobile). Your next Situation Update will be Tuesday, February 20th, 2018.

Here’s your Situation Update for February 15th, 2018

Exercise Sea Soldier '17: US-Oman MOUT Training

Department of Defense photo

Welcome to your Situation Update, a new feature from Insurgentsia that runs weekday mornings. The scope of these posts will cover unconventional warfare around the globe (conventional warfare is just so basic).

The weather forecast this morning is warm with a 90% chance of hopes and prayers from lawmakers. I hope that helps you wherever you are located as you read this.

You can come back to concentration camps the Myanmar government says to the Rohingya. The ethnic minority that fled Myanmar to Bangladesh after harsh government reprisals to insurgent attacks caused over 7,000 to flee wants to return home. Many of their villages were burned to the ground, so the Myanmar government has built what Human Rights Watch calls “open-air prisons” and the government calls “refugee camps.”

Over 10,000 Afghan civilians killed or injured in 2017 says the United Nations. Anti-government forces like the Taliban and Islamic State are deliberating targeting civilians in complex ambushes. However, casualties are also attributed to American airstrikes which have increased under the Trump Administration.

Tillerson acknowledges Hezbollah as “part of the political process in Lebanon” at a news conference in Beirut. Most of his speech was boilerplate denunciation of Hezbollah and Iran, but the statement is significant as it tacitly recognizes Hezbollah as a political organization, despite their presence on the State Department’s official list of foreign terrorist organizations. Realistically, it just means Tillerson can’t stay on message and is out of his depth.

Pakistan doesn’t want to be on the terrorism financier list so it has launched a crackdown against the jihadist group responsible for 2008 Mumbai attack that killed 166 people. It only took 10 years and a major threat from the international community.

Russia admits five civilians killed in U.S. attack in Syria last week. Russian media reported rumors of dozens if not hundreds of Russian contractor deaths, but Russia denied the claims at first. Acknowledging civilians were killed is not admitting Russia is using private military contractors, but it’s closer than saying nothing.

53 Islamist militants killed in the Sinai says the Egyptian military. The offensive began last week in response to an attack on a mosque that killed over 350 people.

This concludes your Situation Update. Questions may be posted in the comments section, but answers are busy crypto mining. To receive these in your inbox daily, use the follow button on the sidebar (web) or below (mobile). Your next Situation Update will be Friday, February 16th, 2018.