Middle East Updates / ISIS Threatens to Execute Captive Lebanese Soldiers and Policemen

At least 14 killed by car bomb in east Baghdad, Iraq; Father fears his U.K. medical student son among ISIS fighters in Kassig video; Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain to return envoys to Qatar following eight-month spat.

Reuters

Read Sunday's updates

1:32 P.M. ISIS threatens to execute captive Lebanese soldiers and policemen

The Islamic State militia on Monday threatened to start executing captive Lebanese soldiers and policemen unless life sentences apparently passed on Islamist militants were revoked.

"Islamic State will start killing soldiers within two hours if the sentences against the inmates are not suspended," Ibrahim Mgheit, the brother of one of seven Lebanese soldiers and policemen being held by the group near the town of Arsal, told Future Television.

Another relative told the broadcaster that he had received a call saying that the ultimatum was extended until 4 pm local time (1400 GMT) to give the judiciary time to act.

A total of 24 soldiers and police are still being held by Islamic State and by Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate the al-Nusra Front after being taken captive in clashes in August. (DPA) 

12:51 P.M. French minister: 'Very likely' French citizen on ISIS beheading video

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said on Monday there was a very strong likelihood that an Islamic State militant who appears on a beheading video released by the group at the weekend was a 22-year-old French citizen.

"This analysis (by French intelligence services) suggests with a very high probability that a French citizen could have directly participated in carrying out these abject acts," Cazeneuve told journalists, adding that the man in question had left to go to Syria in August 2013. (Reuters) 

12:32 P.M. At least 14 killed by car bomb in east Baghdad

A pair of car bombs targeted busy commercial areas in the Iraqi capital on Monday, killing at least 14 people and wounding 31, officials said.

In the first attack, a car detonated on a commercial street in the Meshtal neighborhood in eastern Baghdad, killing at least eight people and wounding 15, police officials said.

The second car bombing took place in Baghdad's western Amiriya district, also hitting a commercial street and killing at least six people and wounding 16 there.

Hospital officials confirmed the casualties. All spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to media.(AP) 

11:51 A.M. Turkey rejects proposed mediation to resolve conflict with Kurdish minority

Turkey rejected Monday a proposal for a third party to help mediate the long-standing conflict with the Kurdish minority, the deputy prime minister said.

"This is a local process. It is a process which Turkey has brought to life through its own discretion. We do not find it right to have a different country, mechanism, system or organization as a part of this," Yalcin Akdogan told the state-run Anadolu news agency.

The armed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) declared a ceasefire last year, which has largely held.

Last month the ceasefire appeared under threat as the air force launched strikes against the group's bases in the east of the country, which was followed by accusations that the PKK had carried out attacks against Turkish soldiers. (DPA)

11:10 A.M. Father believes his U.K. medical student son among ISIS fighters in Kassig video

A father said on Monday he believed his son, a British medical student, was among a squad of Islamic State jihadists filmed beheading Syrian soldiers in the desert in a video posted online on Sunday.

Ahmed Muthana told the Daily Mail newspaper his 20-year-old son Nasser Muthana appeared to be among a group of 16 jihadists who were seen on a video, which also showed the decapitated head of American hostage Peter Kassig, an aid worker.

"I cannot be certain, but it looks like my son," said Ahmed Muthana, who lives in the Welsh city Cardiff.

"He must fear Allah now for killing people. How can he expect to face Allah if he is killing human beings?" (Reuters)

10:35 A.M. Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain to return envoys to Qatar following eight-month spat

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain are to return their ambassadors to Qatar, eight months after withdrawing them in a spat over the emirate's support of the Muslim Brotherhood.

A statement issued after a Sunday night meeting of Gulf Cooperation Council leaders in the Saudi capital Riyadh said that participants had reached a new agreement complementing an April deal in which they undertook not to interfere in each others' internal affairs or undermine each others security.

"On that basis, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain have decided to return their ambassadors to Qatar," the statement added. (DPA)

8:24 A.M. International Union of Muslim Scholars rejects United Arab Emirates terrorist designation

A group of Islamist scholars led by an influential Qatar-based cleric expressed "astonishment" on Monday at being designated a terrorist body by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), one of several Gulf Arab states that view political Islam as a security threat.

In a statement the International Union of Muslim Scholars urged the UAE to remove it from a list of 85 groups the country's cabinet named on Saturday as terrorist organisations in a drive against what the country termed "terrorist crimes".

The inclusion of the group was "not based on any analysis or investigation, whether legal, logical or rational", said the statement, co-signed by the union's chairman, Egyptian-born Youssef al-Qaradawi.

"The Union expresses its complete and extreme astonishment of its inclusion by the UAE among the terrorists groups and rejects this description completely," said the group, which says it seeks to promote scholarship and awareness of Islam.

Other groups designated in the list included Nusra Front and ISIS, also known as the Islamic State, whose fighters are battling Syrian President Bashar Assad, several Shi'ite Muslim militant groups such as the Houthi movement in Yemen, and Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, with which Qaradawi is closely associated. (Reuters)

3:48 A.M. Hagel: U.S. speeding up training of Iraqi forces

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Sunday that the U.S. military is accelerating its efforts to train and advise Iraqi forces fighting Islamic State militants. Hagel said U.S. special operations troops in Iraq's western Anbar province are getting an early start on the train-and-advise effort. He said the effort began a few days ago, but did not provide details.

The Pentagon chief spoke to reporters after observing Army training in California's Mojave Desert.

According to plans laid out last week, the U.S. expects to train nine Iraqi security forces brigades and three Kurdish Peshmerga brigades. Hagel said the speed-up was recommended by Gen. Lloyd Austin, the commander of U.S. Central Command.

Hagel's spokesman, Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, said later that Austin believes getting an early start on training Iraqi forces in Anbar may prompt other countries with a stake in the fight against Islamic State to commit trainers to Iraq. (AP)

 

Sunday night

10:47 P.M. Saudis, U.A.E. and Bahrain to return ambassadors to Qatar

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain on Sunday agreed to return their ambassadors to Qatar, the Gulf Cooperation Council said in a joint statement, signalling an end to a rift over Doha's support for Islamist groups.

The announcement came after an emergency meeting in the Saudi capital Riyadh to discuss the dispute, which began in March and was threatening an annual summit scheduled to be held in December in Doha. (Reuters) 

10:40 P.M. Obama confirms killing of U.S. hostage by ISIS

U.S. President Barack Obama confirmed Kassig's death after U.S. government agencies authenticated a video posted online of a masked man standing over the decapitated head of the 26-year-old medic and former U.S. Army Ranger.

Kassig "was taken from us in an act of pure evil by a terrorist group that the world rightly associates with inhumanity," said Obama, who offered his condolences to the relief worker's family.

Earlier on Sunday, Kassig's parents, Ed and Paula Kassig of Indiananapolis, had asked news organizations to refrain from distributing the video images, saying they wanted their "treasured son" to be remembered for his humanitarian work. (Reuters) Click here for the full story