Middle East Updates / Over 500 Western Women Joined ISIS, Report Says

U.S.-led airstrikes pound ISIS targets near Kobani in last 24 hours; Secret talks in Jordan try to secure release of ISIS hostages; Afghans arrest commander of group that claimed killing Swedish journalist.


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4:00 P.M. More than 500 Western women joined Islamic State

As many as 550 of the estimated 3,000 people who have left Western countries to join the Islamic State insurgency in Iraq and Syria are women, a London-based think tank said Wednesday.

The Institute for Strategic Dialogue said they went as wives, mothers, teachers and nurses because they were prohibited from joining in the fighting.

It said Islamic State's declaration of a caliphate had given them an "ideologically consistent outlet" and helped explain why the flow was different from previous migration patterns during conflicts in Afghanistan, the Balkans, Somalia and Iraq.

"The complicity they feel the Western powers have in perpetuating these conflicts are important factors in their decision to leave the West and seek an alternative society," the report said.

"The binary way in which the world is presented further reinforces this decision." (DPA)

2:41 P.M. U.S.-led airstrikes pound ISIS targets near Kobani in last 24 hours

U.S. and partner nations launched 13 air strikes near Kobani, Syria, in the last 24 hours, the U.S. military said, as they continued their air assault to help drive the last Islamic State forces out of city.

The strikes around Kobani hit 12 Islamic State tactical units and a vehicle, and destroyed nine fighting positions, a staging area and three buildings, the Combined Joint Task Force said in a statement.

The Pentagon said this week the militants had been driven out of 90 percent of Kobani, a city near the border with Turkey where fighting has raged for four months.

The six air strikes in northern Iraq, where Islamic State has seized swathes of territory, targeted al Asad, Kirkuk, Mosul and Sinjar, hitting tactical units, a checkpoint, six buildings and six shipping containers, the task force said. (Reuters)

10:20 A.M. Afghans arrest commander of group that claimed killing Swedish journalist

Afghanistan's main intelligence agency said on Wednesday it had arrested a commander of a militant group known as the "Suicide Front", that claimed responsibility last year for the execution-style killing of a Swedish journalist.

Nils Horner, 51, who worked for Swedish Radio and held dual British-Swedish nationality, was shot dead in the capital's diplomatic quarter in last March. The killing compounded fears of deteriorating security ahead of the withdrawal of most foreign troops.

The militants, who described themselves as a Taliban splinter faction, said the radio journalist was a spy for Britain's intelligence agency.

Britain's mission in Afghanistan said it did not comment on such allegations. At the time, a Western diplomat dismissed the militants' accusation as "complete nonsense." (Reuters)

2:55 A.M. Secret talks in Jordan try to secure release of ISIS hostages

Japanese officials were tightlipped Wednesday as secret talks in Jordan sought to secure the freedom of a Japanese journalist and a Jordanian pilot captured by Islamic State extremists and purportedly threatened with death within 24 hours.

The global efforts to free Japanese freelance journalist Kenji Goto and Jordanian Lt. Mu'ath al-Kaseasbeh gained greater urgency with the release of the apparent ultimatum from the Islamic State group (ISIS).

In the message, the extremists say the two hostages will be killed within 24 hours — late Wednesday night Japan time — unless Jordan frees Sajida al-Rishawi, an Iraqi woman sentenced to death in Jordan for her involvement in a 2005 terrorist attack on a hotel that killed 60 people.

About 200 relatives of the pilot demonstrated outside the prime minister's office in the Jordanian capital of Amman, chanting anti-government slogans and urging it to meet the captors' demands.

A member of Jordan's parliament said the country was in indirect talks with the militants to secure the hostages' release. Bassam Al-Manasseer, chairman of the foreign affairs committee, told Bloomberg News the negotiations are taking place through religious and tribal leaders in Iraq, adding that Jordan and Japan won't negotiate directly with ISIS and won't free al-Rishawi in exchange for Goto only. (AP)