Tuesday: September 30

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September 30th, 2014
05:18 AM ET

New ISIS Hostage Video Released

British photojournalist John Cantlie reads a statement in a new ISIS hostage video that mocks airstrikes.

CNN's Atika Shubert reports.

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Filed under: airstrikes • ISIS
September 29th, 2014
05:53 AM ET

President Obama: We Misjudged ISIS

A week after U.S.-led airstrikes in Syria began, lawmakers continued to question President Barack Obama's strategy for defeating the militant group ISIS, which he admitted in a televised interview Sunday was more powerful than the U.S. initially believed.

Echoing sentiments also expressed by James Clapper, the head of U.S. intelligence services, Obama said the government "underestimated what had been taking place in Syria" during its civil war, allowing Syria to become "ground zero for jihadists around the world."

Speaking in a taped interview with CBS' "60 Minutes," Obama said the terrorists were remnants of al Qaeda in Iraq, which after being diminished by U.S. forces "went back underground."

"Over the past couple of years, during the chaos of the Syrian civil war, where essentially you have huge swaths of the country that are completely ungoverned, they were able to reconstitute themselves and take advantage of that chaos," Obama said, adding later the U.S. also overrated Iraq's security forces, which were quickly overrun by ISIS when it took over the northern city of Mosul this summer.

The President stressed that the issue in Iraq is not simply a military problem; it's a political one.

"This is America leading the international community to assist a country with whom we have a security partnership with, to make sure that they are able to take care of their business," he told "60 Minutes."

The President added: "If we do our job right and the Iraqis fight, then over time our role can slow down and taper off."

See the latest on this developing story on CNN.com

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Filed under: ISIS • President Obama
September 26th, 2014
07:27 AM ET

"Morning Minute" with John Berman – September 26, 2014

Need to get today's top stories on-the-go? Watch John Berman's morning minute now!

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Filed under: Morning Minute
September 24th, 2014
04:57 AM ET

Syria: Don't Repeat Iraq 'Fiasco'

The United States is doing what it must to "take the fight to terrorists," leading a coalition of Arab nations in a series of airstrikes against the so-called Islamic State terror group in Syria, U.S. President Barack Obama said Tuesday.

At the same time, the United States took action - on its own - against another terrorist organization, the Khorasan Group. Obama described its members as "seasoned al Qaeda operatives in Syria."

U.S. officials said the group was plotting attacks against the United States and other Western targets.

The plots against the United States were discovered by the intelligence community in the past week, an intelligence source with knowledge of the matter told CNN. The source did not say what the target may have been, but said the plot potentially involved a bomb made of a nonmetallic device like a toothpaste container or clothes dipped in explosive material.

A plot involving concealed bombs on airplanes "was just one option they were looking at," a U.S. official said.

"Once again, it must be clear to anyone who would plot against America and try to do Americans harm that we will not tolerate safe havens for terrorists who threaten our people," Obama said in televised remarks from the White House.

Concern over a possible backlash by the terror groups has prompted the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to issue a bulletin warning law enforcement agencies to be on heightened alert for lone-wolf terror attacks on U.S. soil in wake of the airstrikes, a U.S. law enforcement official with knowledge of the warning told CNN.

The bulletin calls for vigilance as well as scrutinizing social media for anyone encouraging violence in response to the strikes, according to a U.S. law enforcement official with knowledge of the warning's contents. It points to the use of social media as a tactic by ISIS to spread its message and call for violence.

It also advises agencies to look for changes in appearance or behavior in those they're tracking, the official said.

See more on this developing story on CNN.com

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Filed under: Syria
September 23rd, 2014
06:03 AM ET

Strikes Target ISIS Safe Havens in Syria

Details are released about the types of targets and the ammo used in the airstrikes on ISIS. CNN's Joe Johns has more.

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Filed under: ISIS
September 22nd, 2014
05:46 AM ET

White House Security Beefed Up

The U.S. Secret Service is planning to boost its presence and its surveillance measures around the White House on Monday after an Iraq war veteran, who is apparently suffering from PTSD, jumped over a White House fence.

Officers patrolling the area will be out in greater numbers and will be "looking for individuals who don't look like tourists," a federal law enforcement officer told CNN.

Two security incidents in two days have raised concerns about the safety at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

On Friday, Omar Gonzalez hopped the north fence and sprinted just past the north portico White House doors when he was stopped, Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary said.

Gonzalez carried a Spyderco VG-10 folding knife with a 3-and-a-half inch serrated blade in his pants pocket, according to an affidavit.

A Secret Service officer said he yelled at the intruder to stop. Gonzalez told a Secret Service agent "that he was concerned that the atmosphere was collapsing and needed to get the information to the President of the United States so that he could get the word out to the people," according to the affidavit.

President Barack Obama and his family were not at home at the time.

See more on this developing story on CNN.com

September 19th, 2014
05:08 AM ET

Scotland Votes 'No' to Independence in Historic Referendum

Scotland will remain part of the United Kingdom - along with England, Wales and Northern Ireland - following a historic referendum vote.

A majority of voters rejected the possibility of Scotland breaking away and becoming an independent nation.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed Scotland's decision in a televised statement outside 10 Downing Street, saying it was a clear result.

"Like millions of other people, I am delighted," he said.

Cameron said he would have been heartbroken to see the United Kingdom broken up - but paid tribute to the efforts of both sides in the campaign.

"We hear you," he said to those who voted for independence, adding this was an opportunity to change the way people in the United Kingdom are governed, and "change it for the better."

His government has delivered on devolution in the past and will deliver on it again, Cameron said.

A "new and fair settlement" will be created for Scotland and the other countries of the United Kingdom, he said.

See more on this story on CNN.com

Scotland Goes to the Polls
September 18th, 2014
07:03 AM ET

Scotland Goes to the Polls

Scotland's voters are heading to the polls Thursday to cast their ballots in the country's landmark independence referendum.

There, they will face a straightforward yes/no question: Should Scotland be an independent country?

More than 4.2 million people have registered to vote, the largest electorate ever in Scotland, and turnout in the referendum is expected to be high.

A vote for independence would mean Scotland, with its population of about 5.3 million, splits from the rest of the United Kingdom, made up of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Voting can take place from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m. local time (2 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET) at more than 5,500 polling stations across 32 districts nationwide, from the remote highlands and islands to the big cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Voting was brisk at one polling station in Glasgow as the polls opened, with many people voting on the way to work or before taking their children to school.

Results from the different areas will come in overnight into Friday morning local time, with Chief Counting Officer Mary Pitcaithly expected to announce the outcome "around breakfast time."

Bad weather or the sheer volume of votes cast could slow down the counting process. However, the weather forecast appears good so far - important when some ballot boxes must be collected by helicopter, plane or boat from polling stations on distant islands.

See more on this developing story at CNN.com 

Feds: N.Y. Store Owner Funded ISIS
September 17th, 2014
05:40 AM ET

Feds: N.Y. Store Owner Funded ISIS

A man who owns an upstate New York food store funded ISIS, tried to send jihadists to Syria to fight with the terrorist group and plotted to do some killing himself - by gunning down U.S. troops who had served in Iraq - federal authorities alleged Tuesday.

Mufid A. Elfgeeh, 30, was arrested on May 31, though federal officials didn't outline the case against him until Tuesday. According to an indictment, he faces three counts of trying "to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization" (namely, ISIS), one count of attempting to kill officers and employees of the United States, two counts of having an unregistered firearm silencer and one for possessing guns or silencers "in furtherance of a crime of violence."

The public defender representing Elfgeeh, Mark Hosken, said Tuesday that he had seen the indictment and will enter a plea of not guilty when his client appears in court on Thursday morning.

The federal investigation into Elfgeeh began in early 2013 and a world away from the Middle East, where ISIS (also known as ISIL and the Islamic State) has waged a brutal campaign in recent years. Citing the terror group's threat to the region and gruesome tactics - such as the recent beheadings of two American journalists - the U.S. government has struck ISIS targets from the air in Iraq and threatened to go after it in Syria as well.

A look at Twitter suggests that Elfgeeh didn't stand with his adopted country in this fight, according to an affidavit in support of a search warrant in his case.

He allegedly wrote in one tweet: "Al Qaeda said it loud and clear: we are fighting the American invasion and their hegemony over the earth and the people." In another message, Elfgeeh purportedly stated ISIS "will one day rule the world with the will of Allah."

The affidavit alleges that he urged people to donate a third of their salary or, at least, "#Five_thousand_dollars_from_every_household" (as stated in one tweet) - stressing the importance of supporting groups like ISIS financially.

But the Yemeni-born owner and operator of Halal Mojo and Food Mart, dubbed Mojoe's by some, in Rochester may have wanted to be more than just a financial supporter. Court documents state that - if he couldn't sell his store - Elfgeeh wanted to export "those who are fed up (and want) to go to war and be jihadists."

The FBI informants were among those Elfgeeh actively recruited to join ISIS as jihadists, the affidavit states. He helped them by doing things like paying one of their passport costs, coordinating travel arrangements and setting them up with contacts in the terror group under the guise of going "to the university," which was code for joining ISIS.

Court documents, citing Western Union records, allege that Elfgeeh also sent $600 to a Yemeni man that he believed wanted to join the terrorist group.

See more on this developing story on CNN.com

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Filed under: ISIS
September 16th, 2014
05:12 AM ET

U.S. Airstrike Hits ISIS Target Near Baghdad

A U.S. airstrike near Baghdad on Monday marked a new phase in the fight against ISIS.

The airstrike southwest of the city appears to be the closest the U.S. airstrikes have come to the capital of Iraq since the start of the campaign against ISIS, a senior U.S. military official told CNN. And U.S. Central Command said in a statement that it was the first strike as part of "expanded efforts" to help Iraqi forces on the offensive against ISIS.

Monday's airstrike destroyed an ISIS fighting position that had been firing at Iraqi forces, Central Command said.

It occurred about 35 km (22 miles) southwest of Baghdad, another U.S. official said.

The United States began targeted airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq last month to protect American personnel and support humanitarian missions. Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama said new airstrikes would aim to help Iraqi forces on the offensive against the Islamist militants.

Obama also said airstrikes would include ISIS targets in Syria. And last week he also asked Congress for authorization to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels.

The authority comes under Title 10 of the U.S. code, which deals with military powers, and Congress could vote on granting it this week. Approval also would allow the United States to accept money from other countries for backing the Syrian opposition forces.

A senior administration official told reporters Monday that Obama has been making calls to Democratic and Republican members of Congress, asking them to pass the authorization.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry courted Middle Eastern leaders over the weekend to join a coalition in the fight against the Islamist militant group, which calls itself the Islamic State.

More than two dozen nations, the Arab League, the European Union and United Nations met in the French capital Monday, calling ISIS a threat to the international community and agreeing to "ensure that the culprits are brought to justice."

The United States has conducted more than 150 airstrikes in Iraq against ISIS, and Kerry has said nearly 40 nations have agreed to contribute to the fight against the militants. But it remains unclear which countries are on that list and the precise roles they'll play.

See more on this developing story on CNN.com

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Filed under: ISIS
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