Car bomb in Jordan; ISIS retakes Syrian territory; Fallujah assault, by the numbers; Chinese hacking wanes; and a bit more.

Car bomb at a Jordanian refugee camp near the Syrian border kills 6 soldiers, wounds 14 others, the Associated Press reports. “The military said the explosion went off at about 5:30 a.m. near a makeshift encampment for tens of thousands of Syrian refugees stranded in a remote desert area on the border, awaiting entry into Jordan. The attack targeted a military post serving Syrian refugees in an area known as Ruqban — the larger one of two tent encampments that expanded rapidly in recent months as more Syrians fleeing fighting at home try to get into Jordan.”

Adds AP: “It was the deadliest attack along the tense border in recent memory and it raised new questions about the pro-Western kingdom’s ability to block spillovers from long-running conflicts next door…The two camps are located along an earthen mound, or berm, that runs along the border. Ruqban is just a few miles from the point where Syria, Jordan and Iraq meet.”

The deceased “included four border troops, a member of the civil defense and a public security officer,” according to a statement from Jordan, which “described the bombing as a ‘cowardly terrorist attack.’” So far no groups have claimed responsibility. More from AP, here.

UN war crimes investigators say “world powers” need to find a solution to violence in Syria, and they need to do it now. “Schools, hospitals, mosques, water stations - they are all being turned into rubble,” Paulo Pinheiro, chair of the U.N. independent commission of inquiry on Syria, told the Human Rights Council in Geneva. “Tens of thousands are trapped between frontlines and borders in the north and south of Syria.”

The Syrian reax: Assad’s delegate, Ambassador Hussam Aala, pointed the finger at Ankara and Doha, saying, “schools and hospitals in Aleppo were being destroyed and civilians killed by missiles provided by Turkey and Qatar to the Nusra Front, al Qaeda’s Syrian branch.”

Meantime, Syrian refugees are helping nab Assad’s war criminal entourage, Politico reports. “In France, the Paris prosecutor’s office has opened a preliminary investigation into an unnamed suspect on possible war crimes in association with a huge trove of photographs, known as ‘the Caesar photos,’ showing dead Syrian detainees. They were smuggled out of the country by a former government prison photographer.”

And in Germany, “authorities have opened 13 investigations based on refugees’ testimony. One suspect, identified by German authorities as Ibrahim Al F., was arrested on war crime charges. He is a suspected commander of a rebel militia in Aleppo and had allegedly supervised the torture of several prisoners — and personally tortured at least two of them. He’s also alleged to have demanded ransom in exchange for their release.”

And north in Sweden, “a suspect named Mohammad Abdullah has been charged with war crimes believed to have been committed over three years. Abdullah has admitted to working for Syrian government forces.”

Prosecutions are incredibly difficult, Politico writes, but adds, “the search for impartial justice that respects an accused’s right to a fair trial has to start somewhere.” And that somewhere is beginning with the so-called “universal jurisdiction” doctrine. For a sense of how that process could shake out, read on here.

In the north-central province of Raqqa, ISIS has retaken “all territories [regime troops] gained in Raqqa province since launching their offensive in early June,” AP reports. The back-and-forth between the Syrian allied army and ISIS has continued for months, and was cheekily summed up by Faysal Itani of the Atlantic Council, who wrote: “Rinse, repeat.”

Weapons identification: cluster/incendiary edition. There’s a story this morning from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty that digs into imagery from the Russian military in Syria posted to state-run RT news alleging evidence of Russian cluster bomb use in Syria. Many other outlets reported on the “evidence,” as well.

There’s just one problem, as Human Rights Watch’s Arms Division Director Mary Wareham writes this morning: “Let’s stop calling incendiary weapons ‘cluster bombs.’ Different fill, different international law.”

Speaking of weapons, there was another missile launch in Yemen yesterday, according to the Saudi-led coalition. Reuters: “The ballistic missile was fired toward the central city of Marib, which is controlled by Saudi-backed government forces, but was intercepted and destroyed along with the source of the launch, the coalition said in a statement without elaborating.” More here.

Also in Yemen: a new allegation of civilian casualties from a coalition warplane. AP: “An airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition on Tuesday mistakenly killed eight civilians building a home in an area on the border between Yemen’s southern provinces of Lahj and Taiz.”

The strike, “which also wounded nine civilians, was called in by pro-government fighters who were locked in a fierce battle with Shiite rebels for control over a mountain overlooking a key military base that is home to forces from Yemen alongside allied troops from Sudan and the United Arab Emirates,” writes the AP. “They said Jalis mountain was eventually captured by the Iranian-backed rebels, known as Houthis, after a three-day battle in which some 45 people were killed from both sides. The capture of the mountain places the Al-Anad air base, which once housed U.S. troops and special forces, within range of the rebels’ artillery.” More here.  


From Defense One

Hillary Clinton’s likely Defense Secretary wants more U.S. troops fighting ISIS and Assad. If the cards fall where many think they will, 2017 could be the year of the no-bomb zone. Tech Editor Patrick Tucker reports, here.

An insider’s look at Obama’s Syria choices — and a response to dissenting diplomats. Derek Chollete, a former assistant defense secretary for international security affairs, lays out “six ways we in the administration could’ve approached Syria differently – and why we didn’t.” Fascinating piece, here.

Welcome to the Tuesday edition of The D Brief, by Ben Watson and Bradley Peniston. On this day in 1898, the United States captured Guam from Spain. Send your friends this link: http://get.defenseone.com/d-brief/. And let us know your news: the-d-brief@defenseone.com.


ISIS hold-outs are about to meet Iraq’s counterterrorism police in west Fallujah as Baghdad’s offensive rolls on. Iraqi troops this morning are “dislodging the militants from two eastern districts and pushing them back into a handful of northern and western neighborhoods,” Reuters reports. “A military statement said the elite counter-terrorism forces took the northeastern Shurta police district while units from Baghdad operations command recaptured the Askari military neighborhood.

Where ISIS is still holed-up: In “the northern districts of Jughaifi and Golan as well as the western banks of the Tigris river.”

The Fallujah offensive, in numbers:

  • More than 85,000 residents have fled to government-run camps.
  • Roughly 2,500 ISIS fighters have been killed (though no proof was offered to back up this claim, AP reports).
  • There were believed to be between 3,500 and 4,000 ISIS fighters in Fallujah before the operation began.
  • The offensive is about to enter its 30th day.  
  • $17.5 million is how much the UNHCR says is needed to meet the immediate needs of displaced civilians.

The Taliban just abducted 60 people in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province this morning following an attack where they “ambushed a series of buses and cars,” AP reports. “Abdull Ghafoor Tokhi, the Helmand transportation director, said the Taliban ‘stopped couple of buses and around 15 other vehicles on the main highway and searched them all’ — suggesting they were looking for someone or something specific and had enough time to go through all the vehicles.”

The Taliban’s response to the media: “We freed all but 27 … there will be an investigation and we will find out if they are government employees and if so, they will be hand over to the Taliban judicial officials to decide on their fate.”

Afghan security forces have reportedly launched an operation to find the abducted passengers. More from the scene, here.

Senate votes to end “revolving door” that allows retired troops to keep doing their jobs as civilians. Between 2001 and 2014, more than 41,000 servicemembers left the military, started collecting their pension, and took, essentially, their old job. “None of these jobs was advertised to the public. More than a third were hired before they officially retired, and more than half started their civilian careers within a pay period after taking off their uniform, an indication that no one competed with them for the job,” Washington Post reports. “The practice is perfectly legal. But the Senate voted last week to put it to a stop as part of the massive military policy bill that now goes to the House for conference.” More, here.  

Hacking by Chinese spies is down sharply over the past year, “an apparent response to widespread exposure of the activity, U.S. indictments and the threat of economic sanctions last summer,” WaPo reports, citing a new report by cybersecurity firm FireEye.

ICYMI: “Not long ago, China and its economic espionage were at the center of the Western narrative, but Russia has elbowed its way in,” Aalto University professor Jarno Limnéll wrote last week in Defense One. “As Russian hackers take center stage in the pantheon of cyber adversaries, NATO needs to step up.” Read that, here.

Finally today—Gitmo closure watch: Trial-by-VTC for detainees is out, says U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch. Reuters has the exclusive, here.

Close [ x ] More from DefenseOne