Category: Jihad of the Battlefield


April 19, 2016

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Armed militants in Afghanistan staged a coordinated assault on a key government security agency in the capital Tuesday morning, killing at least seven people and wounding more than 320. The Taliban has claimed responsibility.

The attack, including a suicide car bombing, appears to have targeted an agency similar to the U.S. Secret Service, providing personal protection for high-ranking government officials. Ismail Kawasi, spokesman for the Public Health Ministry, said so far seven dead bodies and 327 wounded, including women and children, have been brought to area hospitals. An Interior Ministry statement said that dozens of civilians were killed and wounded in the attack. The casualty figures are expected to rise.

Sediq Sediqqi, spokesman for the Afghan Interior Ministry, said that the suicide bombing was followed by an assault by armed militants. “One armed terrorist was shot and killed by security forces and the gun battle is still underway with an unknown number of other terrorists,” said Sediqqi.

Later a spokesman for the Kabul police chief, Basir Mujahid, said that the gun battle in the compound had ended. “This was one of the most powerful explosions I have ever heard in my life,” said Obaidullah Tarakhail, a police commander who was present when the attack began. Tarakhail said he couldn’t see or hear anything for 20 minutes after the initial explosion. “All around was dark and covered with thick smoke and dust,” he said.

Dozens of civilian apartment buildings, houses, shops and several government buildings were damaged by the car bomb blast. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack. Taliban insurgents have stepped up their attacks recently since announcing the start of their spring offensive last week.

President Ashraf Ghani issued a statement condemning the attack and saying it, “clearly shows the enemy’s defeat in face-to-face battle with Afghan security forces.” The attack in Kabul comes four days of another attack by Taliban insurgents in northern Kunduz province which was repelled by the Afghan security forces.

Officials in Kunduz said that security has improved in the city and that the Taliban were defeated in other parts of the province, but operations were still underway to clear militant fighters from the rest of the province.

The Taliban held Kunduz for three days last year before being driven out by a two-week counteroffensive aided by U.S.-airstrikes. It was their biggest foray into an urban area since 2001.

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September 04, 2014

NEW DELHI (AP) — Al-Qaida has expanded into India, the leader of the terror group said in a video released Thursday, vowing that its militants would bring Islamic law to the entire subcontinent and “wage jihad against its enemies.”

At least three Indian states with large Muslim populations have been put on alert in the wake of the video’s release, local TV stations reported, though there was no indication of an increased security presence.

The new group “is the fruit of a blessed effort of more than two years to gather the mujahedeen in the Indian subcontinent into a single entity,” al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahri said in the video, which was seen online by the SITE monitoring group.

While his comments raised concerns in India, al-Zawahri’s message seemed largely directed at his own rivals in the international jihad movement, and with raising al-Qaida’s profile in the wake of repeated successes by the Islamic State militant group.

Al-Qaida has been increasingly overshadowed by the Islamic State, whose fighters have captured wide swaths of Syria and Iraq and recently beheaded two American journalists. Al-Qaida “is struggling for its legitimacy in the eyes of the radicalized Muslim world,” said Ajai Sahni, a top Indian security analyst with the New Delhi-based Institute for Conflict Management.

“Osama bin Laden has been killed and (al-Qaida’s) entire top leadership, apart from Zawahri and a few others, one by one have been decimated by the American drone attacks,” he said. While al-Zawahri’s statement referred to the “Indian subcontinent” — a term that most commonly refers to India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal — his comments were widely seen as directed at India, a largely Hindu nation with a large Muslim minority.

Al-Zawahri said the group, Qaedat al-Jihad in the Indian subcontinent, would fight for an Islamic state and laws across the region, “which was part of the Muslims’ territories before it was occupied by the infidel enemy.”

The leader of the new group, Essam Omar, said in an audio recording released with the video, that Jews and Hindus — who he referred to as “apostates of India” — “will watch your destruction by your own eyes.”

Fighters will “storm your barricades with cars packed with gunpowder,” Omar said, decrying what he called the region’s “injustice toward Muslims.” Until recently, India had largely seen itself as beyond the recruiting territory of international jihadists like al-Qaida. Over the past few months, however, the Islamic State has grown in prominence in India, and is increasingly believed to be gaining followers here. Last month, an Indian engineering student who had traveled to Iraq with friends, and who was thought to have joined the Islamic State, was reported killed.

Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh met Thursday morning with top security and intelligence officials to discuss the threat. A spokesman for India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party said the statement was “a matter of serious concern. But there is nothing to worry about. We have a strong government at the federal level.”

India, though, has a notoriously underfunded and ill-trained security infrastructure. In 2008, a small group of Pakistani militants attacked Mumbai, India’s financial hub, effectively shutting down the city for days and killing 166 people.

New Delhi also has been trying for years to put down an insurgency in Kashmir, India’s only majority-Muslim state, where militants are fighting to bring independence to the Himalayan region or join it to neighboring Pakistan. The fighting has left thousands of people dead.

AP Writers Ashok Sharma and Nirmala George contributed to this report.

August 30, 2014

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A suicide bomber in a truck blew himself up at an intelligence headquarters in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday, killing at least two people and setting off an intense firefight with security forces, officials said.

After the bombing outside the headquarters of the National Directorate of Security in Jalalabad, militants battled with security forces for an hour before authorities were able to put down the attack, said Ahmad Zia Abdulzai, a spokesman for the Nangarhar governor.

He would not say how many attackers were involved or whether they were all killed or some escaped. He said authorities were searching the grounds. Abdulzai put the death toll at two and said they were both from the NDS, but Najibullah Kamawal, the top provincial health official, said six bodies had been brought to the hospital.

Conflicting death tolls are common in the immediate aftermath of such bombings. Kamawal said 45 people were wounded. The powerful explosion shook the entire neighborhood, breaking nearby windows and startling residents.

“It was early morning and we were sleeping at home. A strong explosion happened followed by firing. When I came out of my room I was covered with dust, and my kids and I got injured from broken windows,” said Ahmad Shah.

A spokesman for the Taliban, Zabihullah Mujahid, claimed responsibility for the attack in a telephone call to The Associated Press. Jalalabad is one of Afghanistan’s biggest cities, sitting on a major trade route into neighboring Pakistan. But the city is also located in one of the country’s most troubled regions.

Taliban militants are easily able to hide in the forbidding, mountainous terrain, and often cross back and forth into neighboring Pakistan. Afghan security officials have repeatedly accused Pakistan of giving sanctuary to militants that attack Afghanistan, something Pakistan denies.

In May, militants attacked the provincial justice building in Jalalabad, killing at least five civilians before authorities were able to retake the building. Militants in March attacked a police station in Jalalabad, sparking a four-hour battle with police that ended with eleven people dead.

This is the first year that Afghan security forces have operated largely on their own, without U.S. or international forces. The NATO-led security force is scheduled to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of the year, although a small number of U.S. and international troops may stay behind to advise and assist the Afghan forces. But that is contingent on Afghanistan signing a security arrangement with the U.S., something President Hamid Karzai has so far refused to do.

Both of the men vying to replace him in the country’s presidential election have said they will sign the agreement, but that has been stalled as the winner from the disputed vote has still not been named.

__ Associated Press writer Rebecca Santana contributed to this report.

February 13, 2014

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Heavily armed militants attacked Yemen’s main prison in central Sanaa on Thursday, killing seven people and helping 29 inmates escape, many of them convicts in terrorism-related charges, the country’s state news agency reported.

The attack started with a car bomb explosion, then militants exchanged heavy gunfire with the guards at the Sanaa Central Prison, and a number of prisoners fled amid the chaos, according to SABA. A security official said authorities suspect it was an inside job.

Among the 29 who fled, 19 are convicted al-Qiada prisoners including those plotting the assassinations of Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and western diplomats, the official said. He said those killed in the exchange of gunfire were mostly security forces.

Witnesses said earlier that explosions rocked the capital and smoke billowed into the sky. Security forces and army troops have been deployed to the site of the attack and sealed off the whole area. The prison, housing thousands of inmates, is on the main road leading to the airport, which was closed.

Security officials say that the attackers came in three groups and three cars, including the car bomb. One group detonated the car bomb, the second joined the first and engaged with prison guards at the front gate while the third dispersed throughout the prison, engaging with security forces outside. Other militants were firing from the rooftops of houses surrounding the prison.

Authorities suspect the attackers received help from inside the prison in order to allow the inmates to break free, one security official said. He added at least three of the prison officials and guards were detained.

They also said that authorities received information of possible attack on Interior Ministry, in charge of police, and Defense Ministry. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s party said it fears that those who fled were involved in an attempt to assassinate him in 2011. Abdu al-Janadi, Saleh’s party spokesman said, “we are warning of helping prisoners to escape. We are waiting for a transparent investigation into the incident.”

Saleh was removed from power in a yearlong uprising that started in 2011 and ended after he signed a power transfer deal that gave him immunity from prosecution in return for leaving power in 2012. During the uprising, he came under attack in his presidential palace that left him with severe injuries requiring surgeries in neighboring Saudi Arabia.

Yemen has witnessed major jailbreaks in the past that have fueled militancy, including one in February 2006 when 21 al-Qaida militants dug a tunnel and fled the intelligence prison in Sanaa. Many of those who fled at that time are now the group’s most wanted and dangerous men, including its military commander Qassim al-Raimi who is believed to have been behind a series of foiled attacks against Americans.

Three years earlier, 11 al-Qaida militants escaped during another prison break took place when 11 of al-Qaida militants fled, including the suspected perpetrators of the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Aden harbor that killed 17 American sailors.

Washington considers al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, the group’s Yemeni offshoot, its most dangerous branch. It seized large swaths of lands in the south before the military launched a major offensive in the summer of 2012, driving many of them out. The group has continued to carry out ambitious and deadly attacks, including storming the Defense Ministry headquarters leaving 56 dead last month, including foreigners.

6 December 2013

On Friday, Al Qaeda took responsibility for a successful attack on the Yemeni puppet defense ministry that killed 52 apostates on Thursday, saying the complex hosted US personnel behind drone strikes against Muslims, reports AFP.

Accounting to democratic media, in a statement published by an unnamed media outlet of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) on an unnamed Twitter account, the Mujahideen said:

“The city center compound was stormed… after the Mujahedeen proved that it accommodates drone control rooms and American experts”.

“As part of a policy to target drone control rooms, the Mujahideen have dealt a heavy blow to one”.

“Such security headquarters in partnership with the Americans in their war on these Muslim people are a justified target wherever they may be.”

According to official apostates’ figure, up to 25 Mujahideen took part in the assault, and 11 of them embraced Martyrdom (God willing). The other 14 Mujahideen returned safely to their bases.

Department of Monitoring

Kavkaz Center

Source: Kavkaz Center.

Link: http://kavkazcenter.com/eng/content/2013/12/06/18624.shtml.

September 20, 2013

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Taking advantage of heavy fog, al-Qaida militants disguised in military uniforms carried out three coordinated car bomb attacks on a security barracks and military posts in a southern Yemeni province Friday, killing at least 38 troops and wounding dozens others, military and security officials said.

The attacks were the largest since a U.S.-backed military offensive last year routed militants from significant swaths of territory they had seized during Yemen’s 2011 political turmoil. The assaults also underscored the fragility of the Yemeni military and the failure of the current leadership to meet longtime demands to restructure the military.

Yemen’s Supreme Security Committee, headed by the country’s president, issued a statement listing 10 al-Qaida militants as top perpetrators of the attacks, and vowing to bring “criminal, coward and terrorist elements to justice.”

Yemen, the Arab world’s most impoverished country, has been struggling for years with al-Qaida’s local branch, also known as the al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. The group has been waging a campaign of violence against Yemen’s military, including assassinations of security officers and government officials in suicide attacks or drive-by shootings.

The branch came to be considered by Washington as one of the world’s most dangerous terror groups after a series of attempted attacks on American soil. After being uprooted from southern town its took over in 2011, the group has suffered some heavy blows, with a U.S. campaign of drone strikes killing a string of its prominent figures. Near-daily U.S. drone attacks in the first week of August killed 34 suspected al-Qaida militants.

Friday’s attack suggested the group was trying to surge back. The simultaneous, 6 a.m. attacks in the southern province of Shabwa, a one-time al-Qaida stronghold, caught the security forces unprepared, said Maj. Nasser Mohammed, who is with a unit in the area. The attacks took place in a remote region, about 500 kilometers (312 miles) southeast of the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, he said.

Militants were dressed up in military uniforms and drove cars with army license plates, another military official said. They struck just at the transition between guard shifts, indicated they had information on the force’s work schedules, the official said.

The militants targeted three military and Central Security encampments and posts, two in the town of al-Mayfaa, and the third in the al-Ain area several miles away. The area is close to the Balhaf liquefied gas export terminal on the Arabian Sea coast, a second military official said. Both spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press.

The military officials said 38 people were killed in the attacks. One suicide car bomber in al-Mayfaa rammed his explosives-laden vehicle into the Interior Ministry’s al-Kamp Central Security camp, after militants overpowered the guards. Most of the causalities were in this camp, which serves as a base for forces in charge of guarding oil wells and the gas terminal. Clashes at the other al-Mayfaa site left at least five troops wounded, Nasser added.

Meanwhile, a car bomb was detonated prematurely outside the gates of the third site, the post in al-Ain. The blast was followed by heavy clashes during which militants seized six soldiers and a number of military vehicles. Eight militants were killed in the fighting at al-Ain, Nasser said.

Friday’s attacks came just days after Yemeni authorities warned of more al-Qaida attacks and suicide bombings. Over the past two weeks, security was beefed up in the capital after tips that militants planned attacks on vital installations and foreigners.

Al-Qaida-linked militants took advantage of the political unrest in Yemen following the 2011 uprising against former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, to reinforce their presence in the country’s mostly lawless south and seize several cities and towns there.

In a major offensive backed by the U.S. military, Yemen’s army was able to regain control of large parts of the south last year. Militants scattered into different mountainous areas. Saleh was ousted in 2012. His successor, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, removed Saleh’s relatives in the Republican Guard forces and other key units in the military. But he has so far failed to carry out broader reforms purging Saleh loyalists from the military and other government posts, a move experts say is needed to improve the armed forces sand security.

Sanaa-based researcher in Islamic movements, Ziad al-Salami, said Friday’s attacks were a “strong message” from al-Qaida. “Al-Qaida is trying to show that it still carries weight on the ground,” he said. “Yemen needs to speed up reforms of the military and break the current political stalemate.”

Al-Salami said al-Qaida militants are now present in four major Yemeni provinces — Shabwa, Abyan, Hadramawt and Jouf, bordering Saudi Arabia. “This belt is a strategic one because it’s the region where oil is concentrated, and where Yemen has a long coastal line,” al-Salami said. “All of Yemen’s wealth is there. The military must be in control.”

Yemen’s al-Qaida franchise has also been blamed for directing a string of unsuccessful bomb plots against Americans. Those included a foiled plan to down a U.S.-bound airliner using a new, sophisticated explosive to be hidden in the bomber’s underwear, and a plot to send mail bombs on planes to the U.S. hidden in the toner cartridges of computer printers.

6 December 2013

In the Name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful!

Praise be to Allah, peace and prayer be upon our Prophet Muhammad and his family and companions.

And then:

Allah Almighty says:

“And hold fast by the covenant of Allah all together and be not disunited, and remember the favor of Allah on you when you were enemies, then He united your hearts so by His favor you became brethren; and you were on the brink of a pit of fire, then He saved you from it, thus does Allah make clear to you His communications that you may follow the right way”
(The Holy Koran, Chapter 3. “The Family of Imran”, verse 103)

And the Most High says:

“Surely Allah loves those who fight in His way in ranks as if they were a firm and compact wall”.
(The Holy Koran, Chapter 61. “The Ranks”, verse 4)

Nu’man bin Bashir (May Allah be pleased with them) reported:

Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: “The believers in their mutual kindness, compassion and sympathy are just like one body. When one of the limbs suffers, the whole body responds to it with wakefulness and fever”, narrated by Muslim, and in another narration: “Muslims are like one body of a person; if the eye is sore, the whole body aches, and if the head aches, the whole body aches”.

Out of keenness on unity and rejecting division and disagreement, and to unite the rank and word, the Jihadi Harakat Al-Ansar with the mujahidin of Hizbul Furqan under the banner of (La ilaha illallah Muhammadur Rasulullah) and jihad for the sake of Allah to topple the Iranian regime, and raise the word of Allah, and lift the injustice, and support the oppressed, and establish the Sharia of the Lord of the Worlds, and that our jihad be a brick for the Khilafah which our trustful prophet the best peace and blessings be upon him preached us of its return.

The two groups merged under the name of Jamaat Ansar Al-Furqan.

In conclusion we ask Allah Almighty guidance and success, and peace and blessings be on the messenger of Allah and his family and Sahabah and allies.

Shura of Jamaat Ansar Al-Furqan

Source: Islamic media

Department of Monitoring
Kavkaz Center

Source: Kavkaz Center.
Link: http://kavkazcenter.com/eng/content/2013/12/06/18641.shtml.

2013-08-22

Nouakchott (AFP) – An al-Qaeda-linked militia founded by wanted Islamist commander Mokhtar Belmokhtar announced on Thursday it had joined forces with another armed group to take revenge against France for its military offensive in Mali.

Belmokhtar’s Mauritania-based Al-Mulathameen Brigade (The Brigade of the Masked Ones) and the Mali-based Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (Mujao) said they had joined forces under a single banner to unite Muslims across the region.

“Your brothers in Mujao and Al-Mulathameen announce their union and fusion in one movement called Al-Murabitoun to unify the ranks of Muslims around the same goal, from the Nile to the Atlantic,” the groups said in a statement published by Mauritanian news agency ANI.

Belmokhtar, a one-eyed Algerian former commander of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim), allegedly masterminded a siege in January of an Algerian gas plant in which 38 hostages, including three Americans, died.

Branded “The Uncatchable”, Belmokhtar is also thought to have been behind twin car bombings in Niger in May that left at least 20 people dead.

The Algeria siege and the Niger assaults were said to have been carried out in retaliation for France’s military intervention launched in January against Islamist groups in Mali.

Belmokhtar, who broke away from Aqim in 2012 and was involved in the fighting against Chadian forces in Mali, was reported to have been killed in action in March.

The reports, however, were never confirmed and it is believed that he remains at large.

He has been designated a foreign terrorist by the United States since 2003, with the State Department offering a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture.

Stronger than ever

Mujao is thought to be led by Mauritanian ethnic Tuareg Ahmed Ould Amer, who goes by the nom de guerre “Ahmed Telmissi”.

The group broke away from Aqim in mid-2011 with the apparent goal of spreading jihad further into areas of west Africa not within Aqim’s scope.

It was one of a number of Islamist groups that occupied northern Mali last year, imposing a brutal interpretation of Islamic sharia law characterized by amputations, beatings and executions, before being ousted by the French-led military intervention.

The statement said the two men had signed a document announcing their merger and ceding command of the new movement to “another personality”, without revealing the identity of the new leader, according to ANI.

The statement said the jihadist movement in the region was now “stronger than ever” and threatened France and its allies, promising “to rout their troops”.

Al-Murabitoun – an Arabic phrase meaning “the sentinels” – was the name given to a Berber dynasty of Morocco which formed an empire in the 11th century.

Today the name is used by a Nasserist political party in Lebanon.

Source: News24.

Link: http://www.news24.com/Africa/News/African-Islamist-militias-merge-20130822-2.

KABUL | Fri Jul 5, 2013

(Reuters) – The Afghan Taliban promised on Friday to continue attacks over Ramadan, rejecting as a fake an insurgent email promising a halt in violence over the coming Muslim holy month and saying it was the work of government intelligence.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the message sent in his name promising a temporary cessation of violence with next week’s start of Ramadan was the latest incident in a simmering cyber war between intelligence agencies and the insurgents.

“In that mail the enemy losers have tried to influence attacks by mujahideen fighters,” Mujahid said. “We strongly reject sending any such email on a stoppage of operations.”

Afghan spy agency the National Directorate of Security has increasingly targeted the Taliban’s sophisticated messaging network, which includes websites and email accounts, social media and spokesmen using noms de guerre.

The Taliban use Afghanistan’s improving phone network to distribute anti-government messages and use Twitter to claim largely improbable successes as most foreign combat troops look to leave the country by 2014.

The Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan with an iron fist from 1996 to 2001, are seeking to overthrow the U.S.-backed government and end foreign occupation.

While Ramadan is usually a relatively quiet month for insurgent attacks marked mainly by the use of roadside bombs rather than direct assaults by armed fighters, Zabihullah said the month also carried extra religious significance for insurgents.

“During the holy month of Ramadan, jihad has major rewards. And mujahideen will continue to employ all their fighting techniques to mount attacks on the enemy,” he said.

Taliban fighters in 2011 used car bombs to attack a British government cultural center in the Afghan capital over the Ramadan period, killing almost a dozen people.

This year the militants have stepped up attacks ahead of the Afghan summer months. Insurgents including a suicide bomber attacked a foreign logistics and supply company last week in Kabul, the latest in a string of daring assaults in the capital.

Kabul’s police chief General Mohammad Ayoub Salangi said on Friday that security forces had arrested three people in a night raid and seized five suicide bomb vests.

(Reporting by Rob Taylor and Mirwais Harooni; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Source: Reuters.

Link: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/05/us-afghanistan-taliban-idUSBRE9640DT20130705.

June 10, 2013

BEIRUT (AP) — Al-Qaida’s leader has tried to end squabbling between the terror network’s Syrian and Iraqi branches, ordering the two groups to remain separate after an attempted merger prompted a leadership dispute between them.

This came as Syrian rebels battled Monday in a renewed push to capture a government air base in the north, while the regime was said to be preparing for a major offensive to retake opposition-held areas in the province of Aleppo.

The Qatar-based Al-Jazeera TV reported that al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri urged leaders of the Iraqi al-Qaida branch and the Nusra Front in Syria to end their disagreements and “stop any verbal or actual attacks against one another.”

The TV said al-Zawahri’s call came in a letter sent to the station and posted on its website late Sunday. The letter’s authenticity could not be independently verified. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has a network of activists on the ground in Syria, said it also acquired a copy of the letter but did not provide other details.

Al-Zawahri’s call could also reflect a bid to carve out a more significant role for al-Qaida in the Syria civil war. Jabhat al-Nusra, or the Nusra Front, is the most powerful rebel force fighting to topple President Bashar Assad.

In April, al-Qaida in Iraq said it had joined forces with the Nusra Front, forming a new alliance called the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. Hours after the announcement, Nusra Front leader Abu Mohammad al-Golani appeared to distance himself from the merger, saying he was not consulted. Instead, he pledged allegiance to al-Zawahiri.

In Sunday’s letter, al-Zawahri chastises the head of al-Qaida in Iraq, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, saying he announced the merger without consulting al-Qaida’s leadership. He also admonished al-Golani for publicly distancing himself from the merger.

“The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant will be abolished,” al-Zawahri said, adding that Nusra Front will remain an independent branch of al-Qaida. Al-Baghdadi and al-Golani are to stay on as leaders of their respective branches for another year, after which the al-Qaida leadership will decide whether they will keep their posts or be replaced.

Assad’s government in April seized upon the reported merger to back its assertion that it isn’t facing a true popular uprising but a foreign-backed terrorist plot. The merger had also caused friction among rebels on the battlefield who feared the announcement would further discourage Western powers discussing funneling weapons, training and aid toward rebel groups and army defectors.

On Monday, rebel forces advanced inside the sprawling air base of Mannagh near the border with Turkey, activists said. The Observatory said rebels captured a building inside the base, which has been under siege for months. The opposition’s Aleppo Media Center said rebels destroyed several army vehicles and captured the observation tower.

Activists also reported clashes around the predominantly Shiite villages of Nubul and Zahra, besieged by rebels for a year. Aleppo-based activist Mohammed al-Khatib said military reinforcements, including Hezbollah fighters, have been sent to parts of Aleppo, including the two Shiite villages and north-western parts of the city. He said the government was using helicopters to reinforce its positions and resupply in those areas.

The Shiite military group has openly joined the fight in Syria and was key in assisting regime forces in recapturing the strategic town of Qusair last week. Syrian state-run media and the Hezbollah-owned Al-Manar TV have said the regime is preparing an offensive reportedly named Operation Northern Storm to recapture Aleppo.

Moved by the Assad regime’s rapid military advance, the Obama administration began discussing Monday whether to approve lethal aid for the beleaguered rebels, and U.S. officials said a decision could come later this week.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the intense preparation for a siege on Aleppo “reaffirms the urgent need for the international community to focus its efforts on doing all we can do to support the opposition as it works to change the balance on the ground.”

Opposition leaders have warned Washington that their rebellion could face devastating and irreversible losses without greater support. Also Monday, a roadside bomb lightly damaged a van that was heading from Lebanon to Syria, Lebanese security officials said. The van was hit by the bomb, detonated remotely, in the eastern Bekaa valley but kept driving toward the border, crossing into Syria, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. There appeared to be no casualties in the bombing.

Syria’s conflict started with largely peaceful protests against Assad’s regime in March 2011 but eventually turned into a civil war that has killed more than 80,000 people, according to the United Nations.

Lebanon is bitterly divided over the war next door, with gunmen from rival religious sects fighting on opposite sides of the conflict. Lebanese Sunnis mostly back the opposition while many Shiites in Lebanon support Assad. The Syrian regime is dominated by members of the president’s minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah forces have taken an increasingly prominent role in Syria’s fighting and were key in helping Assad’s troops capture the strategic town of Qusair near the border with Lebanon, following weeks of battles with rebels.

On Monday, Syria’s Defense Minister Gen. Fahd Jassem al-Freij said Qusair’s capture last week was a “main point toward restoring security and stability to every inch of our nation.” In apparent retaliation by the rebel side, scores of rockets have been fired from Syria into Hezbollah strongholds in northeastern Lebanon.

Senior Hezbollah official Sheik Nabil Kaouk said it will not change it position on Syria, regardless of “how much local, regional and international pressure increases” on the Lebanese group.

Associated Press writer Bradley Klapper contributed to this report from Washington.