Category: President Obama

French jets bomb Syria in the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa

PARIS – French fighter jets bombed a series of ISIS sites in Raqqa, Syria, on Sunday in what officials described as a major bombardment.

The airstrikes came two days after a series of terrorist attacks in Paris. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attacks, which France’s President described as “an act of war.”

ISIS claims Raqqa as the capital of its so-called caliphate. The targets in Sunday’s airstrikes included a command center, a recruitment center, an ammunition storage base and a training camp for the terror group, said Mickael Soria, press adviser for France’s defense minister.

Twelve aircraft, including 10 fighter jets, were involved in the airstrikes, Soria said. Twenty bombs were dropped, he said, and all of the targets were destroyed.

A pro-ISIS news agency claimed the sites had been abandoned before they were hit.

Military analyst: Strikes are ‘symbolic’

France has been conducting airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria since September as part of a U.S.-led coalition.

The timing likely was no coincidence, analysts said.

“Clearly, it’s a military activity, but it really sends a very strong political message, and it’s all for internal consumption within France,” said retired Maj. Gen. James “Spider” Marks, a CNN military analyst. “This is very visceral. The types of targets they strike right now really are symbolic. From the French perspective, something has to be done.”

Read more about the Paris terror attacks here.

It’s not just difficult to know what’s going on inside the ISIS stronghold, said Janine di Giovanni, Newsweek’s Middle East editor. It’s also hard, she said, to gauge the best strategy for fighting back.

“I think that it’s very complicated, launching airstrikes like this as a retribution, but also as a way of wiping out ISIS,” she said. “Because, the other thing is, that you can’t wipe out an ideology. You might be able to suppress them militarily, or you might be able to cut off some of their lines, but you can’t suppress the key message they’re spreading.”

What impact did airstrikes have?

It’s hard to know what’s happening on the ground inside Raqqa. Since ISIS took over, the city has become increasingly isolated — with an activist group known as Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently providing outsiders with a harrowing glimpse of the city’s transformation.

On Sunday, the activist collective said that the city appeared to be bracing for an attack even before the French airstrikes began.

ISIS fighters appeared to have deserted many areas, a member of the group said. Streets were empty, the group said, markets were less crowded than usual and sheikhs in mosques said they expected the city to be struck.

Streets were empty, the activists said, markets were less crowded than usual and sheikhs in mosques said they expected the city to be struck.

The airstrikes hit several ISIS headquarters, according to Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, but it was unclear what the damage was. So far, the group said, there have been no reports of civilian casualties.

‘Jihadi John’: US air strike targets Islamic State militant in Syria

US forces have carried out a drone strike in Syria against the Islamic State militant known as “Jihadi John”.

A US military source said there was a “high degree of certainty” he had been killed in Thursday’s attack in Raqqa.

Mohammed Emwazi, a Kuwaiti-born British militant, appeared in videos of the beheadings of Western hostages.

UK PM David Cameron said although it was not yet certain whether the strike had been successful, targeting Emwazi was “the right thing to do”.

It is believed there was one other person in the vehicle targeted in the strike.

Who is Mohammed Emwazi?

‘Jihadi John’ movement mapped

Emwazi ‘claimed harassment’

Who are Britain’s jihadists?

Speaking outside Downing Street, Mr Cameron said the UK had been working with the United States “literally around the clock” to track Emwazi down.

He said any successful attack would have been “a strike at the heart” of Islamic State (IS), and would demonstrate to those who would harm Britain that “we have a long reach, we have unwavering determination and we never forget about our citizens”.

He described Emwazi as an “ongoing and serious threat” to civilians around the world, particularly in Syria and the UK.

Emwazi appeared in beheading videos of victims including British aid worker David Haines and taxi driver Alan Henning.

Mr Haines’s daughter Bethany said she felt an “instant sense of relief” upon hearing reports of Emwazi’s possible death, “knowing he wouldn’t appear in anymore horrific videos”

“He was only a pawn in Isis’s stupid game, but knowing it’s over, that he’s finally dead, still hasn’t sunk in,” she said in a statement.

“As much as I wanted him dead I also wanted answers as to why he did it, why my dad, how did it make a difference?”

‘Mixed feelings’

The Henning family were informed on Thursday night by a government contact that the strike had taken place, the BBC understands.

Stuart Henning, Mr Henning’s nephew, wrote on Twitter: “Mixed feelings today wanted the coward behind the mask to suffer the way Alan and his friends did but also glad it’s been destroyed.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said it appeared Emwazi had been “held to account for his callous and brutal crimes”.

“However, it would have been far better for us all if he had been held to account in a court of law,” he said.

On Twitter, a group called Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently posted a map claiming to show the location of the drone strike.

It added: “The good thing is #JihadiJohn got killed near Clock tower where #ISIS Execute people.”

A senior US military source said the strike involved two MQ9 Reaper drones and took place at 20:50 GMT.

A formal statement from the Pentagon stopped short of asserting that Emwazi had definitely been killed, adding that it was assessing the operation.


by Frank Gardner, BBC security correspondent

As the militant who sadistically murdered Western aid workers and journalists on camera, Mohammed Emwazi became a top target for US and British intelligence agencies, even though he is thought to have played no military role within Islamic State.

After his identity was revealed in February, Emwazi largely stayed out of sight, taking particular care not to leave a digital trail to his whereabouts.

But GCHQ, the UK government’s communications headquarters, has expended enormous efforts to intercept and decipher any encrypted messages that might reveal his location or those of his associates.

Emwazi is believed to have travelled to Syria in 2013 and later joined IS militants.

He first appeared in a video in August last year, when footage was posted online showing the murder of US journalist James Foley.

He later appeared in videos of the beheadings of US journalist Steven Sotloff,Mr Haines, Mr Henning, as well as American aid worker Abdul-Rahman Kassig,also known as Peter, and Japanese journalist Kenji Goto.

I Want to Have Citibanks Spare Chump Change

Citibanks 50 million dollar ride

The high-flying execs at Citigroup caved under pressure from President Obama and decided today to abandon plans for a luxurious new $50 million corporate jet from France.
The bank used TARP funds to purchase a new corporate jet for executives.

The decision came 24 hours after the banking giant, which was rescued by a $45 billion taxpayer lifeline, defended buying the state-of-the-art Dassault Falcon 7X — one of nine to be flying in U.S. skies — as a smart business deal.

The jet, the epitome of corporate prestige and privilege, can carry 12 passengers in elegant comfort.

ABC News has learned that on Monday officials of the Obama administration called Citigroup about the company’s new $50 million corporate jet and told execs to “fix it.”

President Obama is cleaning House!

In his first public appearance at the White House, Mr Obama delivered what amounted to a stinging indictment of his predecessor, stating that Americans would welcome “a moment of great change in America, a time for reinvigorating our democracy and remaking our country”.

He demanded “a clean break from business as usual” and vowed to “close the revolving door that lets lobbyists come into government freely and lets them use their time in public service as a way to promote their own interests”.

New rules, he said, were needed to “restore that faith in government” essential to bringing about a major transformation. He was determined “to make government trustworthy in the eyes of the American people” again.

Former President George W. Bush’s Republican party was plagued by scandals involving lobbyists and influence peddling during the past eight years while Mr Obama’s own Democratic party has also been implicated in corruption schemes.

“Public service is a privilege,” Mr Obama told members of his staff at a swearing in ceremony. “It’s not about advantaging yourself. It’s not about advancing your friends or your corporate clients. It’s not about advancing an ideological agenda or the special interests of any organisation.”

The new rules will ban aides from trying to influence the Obama administration for two years after they leave his staff. New officials will also be banned from working on subjects they have previously lobbied on.

Mr Obama said he would also ban lobbyists from giving presents to any members of his administration. All his staff will be required to attend an ethics briefing as part of the new rules he described as tighter “than under any other administration in history”.

The new president also pledged to uphold “a new standard of openness” in government.

“For a long time now there’s been too much secrecy in this city. The old rules said that if there was a defensible argument for not disclosing something to the American people, then it should not be disclosed. That era is now over.”

Mr Obama, who is taking office during the gravest economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s, said that all his staff who earned more than $100,000 (£73,000) would have their pay frozen.

“During this period of economic emergency, families are tightening their belts, and so should Washington. That’s why I am instituting a pay freeze on the salaries of my senior White House staff.

“Some of the people in this room will be affected by the pay freeze, and I want you to know that I appreciate your willingness to agree to it.”

In the afternoon, the new president and first lady Michelle Obama welcomed 100 local people for an “open house” at the White House, shaking the hands of guests in the blue room.

The president thanked people for coming to visit and told them enjoy themselves. He even joked that they should roam around, but just be careful not to break anything.

Vice-President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, received children from 10 local schools to their official residence.

By Toby Harnden

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