DC Area Transit Police Officer Charged With Attempting to Support ISIS

By Matt Dean, Fox News Producer

A Washington, DC Metro Transit Authority police officer has been charged with attempting to provide material support to ISIS – the first ever law enforcement officer arrested for supporting the terror group.

In a criminal complaint unsealed Wednesday against Virginia resident Nicholas Young, authorities allege he attempted to send money to ISIS through a mobile-based gift card over an unnamed messaging service the terror group utilizes for recruiting purposes. The transaction, which was redeemed by the FBI for $245, was made in July 2016.

Despite Wednesday’s arrest, the Department of Justice said there was never any threat to the public or a plot by Young to target the public transit system he was hired to protect.

Young, a 13-year veteran of the capital region’s transit police department, was arrested by FBI agents at his office Wednesday morning without incident.

Court documents paint the story of an individual with ties to suspicious individuals and with terrorist aspirations abroad.

The criminal complaint connects 36-year-old to two convicted Washington, DC-area terrorist sympathizers, Zachary Chesser and Amine El Khalifi.

Chesser was sentenced in federal court in 2011 to 25 years in prison for aiding Al Qaeda affiliate Al Shabaab. Chesser is famously known for threatening the creators of South Park for its depiction of the prophet Mohamed. Khalifi was arrested in 2012 for attempting to detonate an explosive vest in the U.S. Capitol Building.

Court document show federal investigators also questioned Young about trips he had taken to Libya in 2011. Nicholas Young told FBI agents during an interview that he traveled twice to the North African nation to assist rebels attempting to overthrow the Qaddafi regime.

A baggage search by Customs and Border Protection on one of Young’s outbound trips revealed he had traveled with body armor, a Kevlar helmet, and “several other military-style items,” according to the criminal complaint.

Young is also alleged to have been in possession of a large cache of firearms, including numerous rifles and handguns at his home.

His terrorist leanings came blatantly into the spotlight in 2015 when he admitted to interviewers at the Metro Transit Authority Police Department that he dressed up as Jihadi John for Halloween in 2014. According to the criminal complaint, as part of his costume, “Young stuffed an orange jumpsuit with paper to portray a headless hostage, and he carried that around with him through the party.”

In that same interview, the Muslim convert admitted to having previously dressed up as a Nazi and collecting Nazi memorabilia as well as possessing a tattoo of a German eagle on his neck.

Young makes his initial appearance in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia Wednesday afternoon. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison. 

Pentagon: "No endpoint" to US airstrikes in Libya, pace set by Libyian government

By Lucas Tomlinson

The Pentagon said Monday that a new round of airstrikes against ISIS in Libya today are being conducted at the request of the Libyan government, and the Libyans will tell the US military when to conduct airstrikes going forward.

“They'll be determining the pace and the success of this campaign,” said Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook in a press briefing Monday.

“We don't have an end point at this particular moment in time.  But we'll be working closely with the [Libyan government] and we certainly hope that this is something that does not require a lengthy amount of time,” he said.

Cook told reporters that one tank and two vehicles belonging to ISIS in the coastal town of Sirte were struck in the US airstrike today.  Cook would not readout what type of US military aircraft were used or where the aircraft were based.

Cook said US airstrikes in the future would be limited to the area of Sirte and be done only at the request of and in “close coordination” with the new UN-backed Libyan government, known as the Government of National Accord (GNA).

Cook said the number of ISIS fighters has been “reduced” in Libya, but did not offer any numbers to support the claim. 

He said the number of ISIS fighters in the ISIS stronghold of Sirte has been reduced to under 1,000, but did not have an estimate for the entire country.

Estimations vary, but the intelligence community has assessed ISIS to have more than 5,000 fighters inside Libya, double the number from a year ago.  Some estimates range as high as 6,000 ISIS fighters inside Libya.

Future airstrikes in Libya will be determined by the commander of the US military’ Africa command based in Stuttguart, Germany.

A Pentagon statement announcing the new airstrikes against ISIS in Libya released before the briefing said President Obama had authorized the strikes today.  

For months, top Pentagon officials have said they would wait for a new government in Libya before ramping up operations against ISIS in Libya.

Cook said no US troops participated in the strikes against ISIS today in Libya, but would not rule out the presence of US troops elsewhere in the country.

Pentagon officials confirmed recently that teams of special operations forces had been going in and out of Libya in the past few months to meet local forces on the ground.

The US airstrikes in Libya today were the third since November.

In February, US Air Force F-15s flying out of the United Kingdom bombed an ISIS training camp outside the Libyan capital of Tripoli killing up to 50 ISIS fighters.

In November, one day after the horrific Paris attacks  that killed over 125 people, American jets killed the top ISIS leader in Libya, Abu Nabil in the port city of Darnah (also spelled “Derna”)

Asked about the potential for an increase in the number of strikes in Libya going forward, Cook said, “We are prepared to carry out more strikes.”

Cook said the 2001 Authorized Use of Military Force (AUMF) was the legal authority used to launch the strikes today.

Hillary Clinton’s running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee,  has long sought a new authorization against ISIS and has introduced bipartisan legislation to make one, but the bill stalled in Congress. 

Indiana Governor Race

Now that Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has accepted the vice presidential  nod from Donald Trump and has officially filed his paperwork to get off the ballot in Indiana in the race for Governor, Republican sources tell Fox News that former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels is being heavily recruited to run again for his old seat. 

Daniels, the current President of Purdue University, is said to be seriously considering another run. 

Why is this important beyond Indiana?   Because when Democrat Even Bayh announced that he was going to run for the US Senate seat to challenge Republican Congressman Todd Young Republicans in Washington worried that they may have a very tough race against a big name like Bayh in Indiana running.   

If Mitch Daniels decides to make another run for Governor Republicans believe it would bring out voters in droves.  Daniels was a very popular Governor and left office with a 65% approval rating in his final year in 2012 and it was higher than 70% at one time. 

If Daniels can bring out Republican voters as expected then Republicans in Indiana and in Washington believe it directly helps Young in his race and thereby helps Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who believes every Senate race is crucial for Republicans to be able to hold on to control of the US Senate.       

Democrats only have to pick up 4 or 5 seats to take control depending on whether or not they win the White House.   They are defending 24 seats.  Democrats are defending 10.


More US Troops Headed to Iraq, US General Says

By Lucas Tomlinson, Fox News Producer

BAGHDAD- More US troops will be going to Iraq in the months ahead to help local forces defeat ISIS, the top America military commander in charge of operations in the Middle East told Fox News Thursday. This is in addition to the 560 US forces President Obama ordered to Iraq this week.

"There will probably be some additional capabilities we will need to bring in to complete our objectives," said Gen. Joseph Votel, who heads the U.S.. Central Command.

"As the leadership has told me, if we need something, we need additional capabilities, we need additional people, we should ask for those things and I've been encouraged to do that," Votel added.

The 560 troops deploying to Iraq in the days ahead will help secure an air base 40 miles south of Mosul, recently captured by Iraqi forces supported by US-led coalition airstrikes. America military logistics personnel, engineers ad force protection units will compost the bulk of troops headed to Iraq.

The British government said this week they would send 250 more troops to Iraq as well.

The base will be used to stage Iraqi forces making the assault on Mosul, defense officials say.

Iraqi forces want to build on their momentum following their victory over ISIS in Fallujah, backed by hundreds of coalition airstrikes.

General Votel traveled to Baghdad to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi as well as top Iraqi defense officials to discuss upcoming operations against ISIS.

Votel made previous stops in Afghanistan, Bahrain to visit a US Navy warship transiting the Strait of Hormuz, and Jordan beige arriving in Iraq for the final leg of his visit o the region.

It is not immediately clear what type of forces will be headed to Iraq to help prepare for the long awaited ground operation to retake Mosul, Iraq's second largest city located more than 250 miles north of Baghdad. The majority of ISIS fighters in Iraq are located in Mosul since conquering the city more than two years ago.

Votel said the role of US forces would not change going forward--they will continue to train and advise Iraqi forces away from the front lines.

As the former commander of US special forces, Fox News asked Votel if he had a desire to ramp up attacks using American special ops forces.

"I'm satisfied that we are doing things...to accomplish the objectives that were laid out for us," Votel answered.

Votel said his forces continue to hunt for ISIS emir Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

"We are all trying to move this as quickly and effectively as we can," he added. "That timeline has to take in consideration the capabilities of our [Iraqi] partners as well."

When asked how close the Iraqi forces were to taking Mosul, seen by many as a critical step in defeating ISIS, Votel suggest it was still a ways off.

"We're probably sometime away from actually going to Mosul," sad Votel, but added, "[Iraqi forces] are definitely moving in the right direction."

Fox News spoke to Gen. Votel before the horrific attach in Nice along the French Riviera killing more than 80 people celebrating Bastille Day.

When asked why Americans care about the war against ISIS, Votel offered this assessment:

"Certainly, when they have sanctuary or they control terrain, it makes it easier for them to do the things they want to do."



Fox News Reporting - Takeover - The Trump Convention

Premieres July 16th at 8PM ET 

Political conventions are usually where parties unite, but there's nothing "usual" about the big Republican meeting get together in Cleveland.

In Donald Trump, they’ve got an unprecedented candidate—a man who’s never held office and shoots from the hip.  He’s brought a lot of people into the party, people who will fight for him. But he’s also turned off some party regulars -- and some are hoping to take away the presumption from this presumptive nominee.

And that’s just what’s going on inside the convention. Outside may be even more explosive.  There’s certain to be high levels of protest on the streets, and more than a few people who may be spoiling for trouble.  

In Fox News Reporting - Takeover - The Trump Convention we look at the Republican convention—who will be there, how it will be run, how it will effect the election.  Will they be throwing a big party, or will they destroy the Grand Old Party?



US Navy: Some sailors "did not meet code of conduct" after being detained by Iranian forces

The Navy’s top officer said the performance of 10 of his sailors leading up to and following their capture by Iranian forces in January did not meet the high standards expected of them.

“Those sailors clearly know our actions on that day in January, and this incident did not live up to our expectations of our Navy,” said Admiral John Richardson during a press briefing with reporters Thursday announcing the findings of an investigation into the incident.  

One of Richardson’s top deputies said some of the sailors violated the long standing “code of conduct” that requires all service members to “I will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country,” among the five articles. [read the code here]

According to the report, some of the Navy sailors gave up their passwords to their laptops, cellphones and sensitive data about their ships to their Iranian captors.

“The investigation also found that some crew members did not meet code of conduct standards while in custody,” said VICE ADMIRAL CHRIS AQUILINO (USN), DEPUTY FOR OPERATIONS, PLANS AND STRATEGY

Aquilino said the rules of engagement dealing with Iranian forces in the Persian Gulf “may not have been understood by the crews.”

Among the findings of the investigation was the crews failed to report they were off track after beginning their transit from Kuwait to Bahrain four hours behind schedule. To make up the time, the two Navy patrol boats decided to take a short cut, taking them inside Iranian territorial waters near Farsi Island, centrally located in the Persian Gulf.

Richardson said that Iran violated international law in their treatment  of his sailors by taking the sailors at gunpoint.

“The investigation concluded that Iran violated international law by impeding the boats' innocent passage transit, and they violated sovereign immunity by boarding, searching and seizing the boats and by photographing and videotaping the crew,” he said.

Richardson said when the boat crew was reported missing “alert launches” of F-18s from the aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman as well as US Air Force F-15s launched from bases on land nearby.  A US Navy cruiser, USS Anzio was dispatched near Farsi Island where the US sailors were taken.

Richardson said the task force commander for Task Force 56, who oversaw the two patrol boats has been relieved.  Richardson also said the commanding officer of the riverine squadron has been relieved. 

Another officer in charge of the boat detachment in Kuwait was also let go. Six other people face punishment as well, Richardson says.

“Big incidents like this are always the result of the accumulation of a number of small problems.  And so it's just the nature of these things,” said Richardson describing the incident.

Richardson said the lessons learned from the incident would be taught to sailors around the fleet and also to future generations of officers and enlisted sailors.

“So this will be something that we can mine for a lot of lessons,” said Richardson.

Admiral Richardson said he had not spoken to his Iranian counterpart to voice his displeasure over the incident.

Ted Cruz & Jeh Johnson Square Off Over "Islamic Extremism" "Jihad" Characterizations

A contentious exchange took place between DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson and Texas Senator Ted Cruz Thursday during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing into DHS oversight.

Cruz went after Secretary Johnson over the administration’s alleged “scrubbing” of any references to Islamic extremism or the term “jihad” from DHS counterterrorism literature. Cruz also alleged that references to “Islamic extremism” and the term “jihad” were stricken from FBI counterterrorism manuals as well.

Speaking for the DHS side of the house, Johnson said he had “no idea” what Cruz was alluding to. He pushed back saying that while the broader conversation over terrorism characterizations is “very interesting” and “makes for good political debate,” in practical terms, if the administration were to start giving credence to the so-called Islamic State it would hinder efforts to build bridges within the Muslim community.

Johnson added that while he was legal advisor to the Pentagon’s drone program, when deciding whether to strike an individual he “didn’t care if the baseball card said violent extremist or Islamic extremist.” 

Cruz fired back saying that the scrubbing of that terminology essentially changes law enforcement behavior when responding to terror attacks and accused the administration of “willful blindness” in its efforts to erase these references calling upon missed red flags prior to the Nidal Hasan Fort Hood attack as well as red flags on the Tsarnaev brothers prior to the Boston Marathon bombings. 

US military spokesman: No confirmation Baghdadi has been killed

US mil spox: No confirmation Baghdadi has been killed //US watching Iranian-backed forces "carefully

By Lucas Tomlinson, Fox News Producer

A top US military spokesman based in Baghdad said Wednesday that he could not confirm that the head of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has been killed in a recent US airstrike.  

“I can't confirm one way or another.  We don't know for sure,” said Col. Christopher Garver during a press briefing.  Garver said there were no US airstrikes in Raqqa on June 10, the day and location where multiple reports said the strike took place.  Garver said there were “two small strikes” the next day in Raqqa, however.

“We've been targeting senior leaders of [ISIS] and if we've got an opportunity to get him, we would take it,” said Garver.

There is currently a $25 million bounty on Baghdadi’s head.

Meanwhile Iraqi forces are having a tough time pushing into the heart of the largest concentration of ISIS fighters in western Iraq near Baghdad.

Iraqi forces are now inside the “southern edge” of Fallujah, located 45 miles west of the Iraqi capital, said Garver.

“The fighting remains intense inside the city,” Col. Christopher Garver told reporters during a press briefing Wednesday.  He said while Iraqi forces are inside Fallujah, they have not yet reached the center of the city.

In the past week, US jets have conducted 19 airstrikes in and around Fallujah, he said.

“We have hit tactical units and fighters, heavy machine guns, rocket-propelled grenade teams, mortar systems, recoil-less rifles, air artillery pieces, and Daesh vehicles,” said Garver describing the targets.

Garver said 40,000 Iraqi civilians have evacuated Fallujah.

When asked by Fox News about Iranian-backed Shia militias carrying out reprisal killings against Sunni Iraqi citizens fleeing Fallujah, Garver could not confirm the reports.

“We have not seen that specifically,” he said.

But he acknowledged such killings between Iranian-backed forces, some of whom killed American troops in the past decade in Iraq, has occurred recently in the ISIS fight around Tikrit.    

“Clearly, it is a problem, something we're going to watch carefully,” said Garver.

Photos of Iran’s Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani as well as his deputy Abu Mahdi al Muhandis have surfaced on social media showing the Iranian generals charged leading Shia militias in the Fallujah battle.

Last week, Iraq’s prime minister said Soleimani was serving in Iraq as an invited guest of his government.

Col. Garver said the US Army Apache strike earlier this week against an ISIS car bomb 50 miles south of Mosul was approved by the Iraqi government before the strike.

Garver said the Apaches are located at various locations inside Iraq, but would not give a specific location when asked if they had been moved to support the Mosul operation.

Garver said there have been 50 airstrikes in northern Iraq in the past week.

In Syria, Garver said the US-led coalition has conducted 73 strikes in Syria supporting an operation to liberate the ISIS-held town of Manbij near Syria’s border with Turkey, seen as a key logistics hub for ISIS to ferrying troops and supplies across the border.

US-backed Syrian force launches operation to retake ISIS-held Syrian town near Turkish border

Lucas Tomlinson, Fox News Producer

A large Sunni Arab fighting force, backed by US special operations forces and fighter jets have launched an operation to recapture a key ISIS-held village in northern Syria 20 miles from the border with Turkey, a senior defense official tells Fox News.

The official said the US special ops troops would “not be engaged in direct combat” during the operation to reclaim the city of Manbij, to seal off a key access point for ISIS to move supplies and foreign fighters into Syria from Turkey.

18 US airstrikes in Manbij in the past 24 hours in Syria have destroyed ISIS headquarters buildings, weapons caches, training areas and six bridges, according to the daily strike report released by the US-led coalition Wednesday morning.  An unknown number of ISIS fighters were also killed according to officials familiar with the operation.

Over the weekend, an American commando was wounded in Syria north of the ISIS de-facto headquarters of Raqqa in a rocket or mortar attack, the first time the Pentagon has acknowledged a US service member had been hurt inside Syria.  In a separate ISIS attack near Irbil in neighboring Iraq, another US special operator was wounded last weekend as well, according to a Pentagon spokesman said Tuesday both ISIS attacks against the US special operations troops did not involve “active combat.”

The Obama administration has gone to great lengths to avoid calling the deployment of some 5,000 US troops to Iraq and nearly 300 to Syria as a “combat” deployment, stressing an advisory role to local forces away from the front lines.

The US-backed force numbers in the “thousands,” but the official refused to disclose the precise size of the force citing operational security.  The official said a small contingent of Kurdish fighters are also part of the ground force, but have pledged to return to their territory in Syria’s northeast following the clearing operation in Manbij, located west of the Euphrates River, historically Arab held territory.

The official acknowledged it was important to show NATO-ally Turkey that Arabs would take the lead in the operation.  Turkey considers the Kurdish fighters known as the YPG a terrorist group, an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party or PKK in Iraq.  The United States and Turkey consider the PKK a terrorist organization, which has fought a guerrilla war against Turkey since the mid-80s killing tens of thousands of Turks. 

The YPG has been a key ally for the US military on the ground in Syria in the fight against ISIS.  In January, YPG fighters captured Kobane, a Syrian city on the border with Turkey.

The State Department says the YPG is a separate entity from the PKK, despite historical links between the two groups. 

Last week, photos by AFP of US special operations forces in Syria wearing patches of the YPG surfaced on the Internet, drawing outrage from Turkish officials. 

The YPG has roots in Marxist ideology and pledges allegiance to the PKK’s jailed leader Abdullah Öcalan.  Col. Steve Warren, a Baghdad-based spokesman for the U.S. military said Friday that US forces wearing the YPG patches was “inappropriate” and that corrective action had been taken.

In February, the YPG opened its first foreign bureau in Moscow. 

New satellite imagery obtained by Fox News shows Chinese drone on contested island in South China Sea for the first time

By Lucas Tomlinson

New satellite imagery obtained by Fox News shows that China, for the first time, has deployed a drone with stealth technology to a contested island in the South China Sea, in another sign of escalating tensions in the region.  This development comes as President Obama visits Japan and recently lifted an arms embargo against Vietnam while visiting Hanoi earlier this week, drawing criticism from the Chinese government about stoking tensions in the region.

The newly obtained satellite images from ImageSat International (ISI) shows a Chinese Harbin BZK-005 long range reconnaissance drone on Woody Island in the South China Sea.  The drone can remain airborne for up to 40 hours.  The Chinese drone did not appear armed in the satellite image taken last month.  For the time being, the BZK-005 does not have the capability to fire missiles unlike other drones in China’s inventory. 

Other satellite images show some of the recently deployed HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles on Woody Island transferred from one cluster on the northern part of the island to other locations in a move most likely to make them more difficult to destroy in a potential air strike.  In February, Fox News first reported the deployment of the missiles to Woody Island as President Obama hosted leaders from 10 Southeast Asian nations in Palm Springs, California.

The Chinese HQ-9 is similar in design to the Russian S-300 missile system according to US defense officials and has a range of 125 miles.

Asked about the deployment of the Chinese drone to the island, a senior Pentagon official said he could not comment on intelligence matters.  

When asked about the increasing drone threat by China in the South China Sea at a press briefing Thursday, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook did not address the issue directly, but acknowledged the Pentagon had “concerns” about China’s behavior in the region along with other countries.  

“You've heard us talk at length [about] our concerns about militarization in the South China Sea, not just by China,” said Cook.  "There are concerns about what's happening.”

The Chinese first built a runway on Woody Island in the 1990s.  Located in the Paracel chain of islands in the South China Sea, Woody Island is also claimed by Taiwan and Vietnam in addition to China. 

Separately,  China has constructed 3,200 acres of artificial islands atop former rocks and reefs farther south in the Spratly Islands according to a recent Pentagon report to Congress.  

Over $5 trillion in cargo and natural resources pass through the South China Sea each year. 

The LA Times recently reported that China has sold its armed drone, the CH-4, to Nigeria, Pakistan and Iraq, raising concerns about the proliferation of this type of technology.  In December, Iraq claimed to have successfully used a CH-4 against ISIS.  

Earlier this month, the US Navy sailed a guided-missile destroyer near Fiery Cross Reef, one of China’s man-made islands in the South China Sea.   The “freedom of navigation” operation as the Pentagon calls them, took the US Navy warship within 12 nautical miles of the Chinese island, sending a message to China that the United States does not recognize China’s territory.  In response, China launched fighter jets.   Early this year, China tested commercial airliners on a new runway on Fiery Cross Reef.  Defense officials tell Fox News, that China has sent fighter jets and other military equipment there recently.

A week after the US destroyer sailed near Fiery Cross Reef, two Chinese J-11 fighter jets buzzed a US Navy EP-3 reconnaissance aircraft flying 50 miles east of Hainan Island where a large Chinese submarine base is located.  The Pentagon called China’s action “unsafe” and claimed the Navy EP-3 was flying in international airspace.

Chinese officials were quoted Thursday saying China is ready to deploy nuclear-armed submarines in the Pacific, as a result of the United States moving more weapons to the region. 

China has said previous freedom of navigation operations by the US Navy “violated Chinese law” and called the actions “provocative.”  A Chinese military spokesman vowed “dangerous consequences” if similar operations from the American warships continue in the future.

When China’s President Xi visited the White House in September he vowed not to militarize the South China Sea.   China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, reiterated that pledge  when Secretary of State John F. Kerry visited Beijing in February, but said some “self-defense” weapons were necessary to protect the Chinese islands.  

Last month, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter visited the Philippians where US military forces have returned for the first time since the Subic Bay naval base was closed in 1992.   After Carter’s visit, a flight of US Air Force A-10 attack planes flew near Scarborough Shoal, located only 200 miles from Manila, where US defense officials have seen Chinese ships surveying the area for another potential dredging operation.  



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