Spotlight on Global Jihad
The city of Kobani and, to its north, the border crossing between Syria and Turkey (Wikimapia)
The town of Ain Issa, south of Tell Abyad (Google Maps)
The city of Al-Hasakah, in northeastern Syria. The city of Al-Raqqah, ISIS’s “capital city” in Syria, is situated southwest of Al-Hasakah (Google Maps)
ISIS operative in the Al-Hasakah region (Aamaq, June 26, 2015)
American-made anti-tank weapons which fell into the hands of ISIS and was used in combat in Al-Hasakah.
Hezbollah jeep damaged by an anti-tank missile fired in the area of Al-Rahwe, in the western Al-Qalamoun Mountains
ISIS’s vehicle armoring in Fallujah (Isdarat al-Dawla al-Islamiyya, June 28, 2015)
ISIS operatives in Iraq who are from the Caucasus congratulating jihadists from the Caucasus on joining ISIS (Isdarat al-Dawla al-Islamiyya, June 27, 2015)
Photo of the severed head posted on an ISIS-affiliated Twitter account (Twitter, June 28, 2015)
Shooting attack perpetrator Sayf al-Din al-Rizqi.
The text of ISIS’s June 26, 2015, claim of responsibility for the shootings in the resort town of Sousse (ISIS-affiliated Twitter account, June 27, 2015).
Main events of the week
The international campaign against ISIS
US and coalition airstrikes
- This week, the US and coalition forces continued their airstrikes against ISIS targets. During the week, dozens of airstrikes were carried out in Syria and Iraq. The airstrikes were carried out using combat aircraft, attack aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles. Following are the main airstrikes (CENTCOM website):
- Syria – the airstrikes were concentrated in the areas of Tell Abyad, Al-Hasakah, Aleppo, Al-Raqqah, Deir al-Zor and Kobani. The airstrikes reportedly damaged ISIS tactical units, battle positions, staging areas, vehicles, heavy machinery, and a tank.
- Iraq – the airstrikes were concentrated in Habbaniyah,Hit, Kirkuk, Mosul, Ramadi, Tal Afar, Al-Walid, Baiji, Haditha, Sinjar, Al-Baghdadi, Fallujah, Hawija and Al-Qaim. The airstrikes reportedly damaged ISIS rocket caches, tactical units, weapons, checkpoints, battle positions, buildings, rocket and mortar launching sites, vehicles and heavy machinery.
US statements about the campaign against ISIS
- According to media reports, the Pentagon confirmed that ISIS had accumulated radioactive materials seized in the areas that it took over in Iraq. According to the report, ISIS now possesses the ability to produce a dirty bomb, as it claimed in the latest issue of its organ, Dabiq. The issue was first raised by the Australian security services. According to the US Department of Defense spokesman, the US is aware that ISIS declared that it could manufacture a dirty bomb (WND, June 24, 2015).
Main developments in Syria
Kobani (Ayn al-Arab)
- During the week, ISIS operatives mounted an attack from their launching base in the city of Jarabulus on the city of Kobani, held by Kurdish forces (YPG). ISIS’s military operation began with a suicide bombing attack on June 25, 2015. This was followed by a massive assault by ISIS operatives, who managed to enter Kobani. The ISIS operatives reportedly entered the city wearing uniforms similar to those of the Kurdish YPG forces. After entering Kobani, the ISIS operatives began to fight inside the urban area, going from house to house. More than a hundred Kurdish residents were reportedly killed by ISIS during the fighting (Al-Arabi Al-Jadeed, June 27, 2015).
- On June 27, 2015, the Kurdish forces announced they had managed to oust the ISIS operatives from the city of Kobani (Syriahr.com, June 27, 2015). According to a report by the US Army Central Command, ten airstrikes were carried out by the coalition forces in Kobani on June 25, 2015, as air support for the Kurds (CENTCOM website, June 25, 2015).
- According to Rami Abdul Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), ISIS operatives entered the area of Kobani from Turkish territory and not from Syria, because the areas in Syria are controlled by the YPG forces (Al-Arabiya al-Hadath, June 25, 2015). The Kurds also accused the Turks of letting ISIS operatives enter Syrian territory through Turkey (Al-Mayadeen, June 25, 2015). However, these reports have not been verified and Turkish officials have denied them (syriahr.com, June 27, 2015).
- On June 24, 2015, the Kurdish forces managed to take control of the town of Ain Issa, south of Tell Abyad. Previously, they managed to take control of a Syrian army base near Ain Issa, which had been taken over by ISIS in the summer of 2014. According to reports, many ISIS operatives were transferred from the city of Palmyra to the area of Al-Raqqah in preparation for a possible attack by the Kurdish troops against ISIS outposts in the northern rural area of the Al-Raqqah province (As-Safir, June 25, 2015).
The takeover of the town of Ain Issa and the military base near it indicates thatthe Kurdish forces are trying to expand their control in the Tell Abyad area, to the south. This expansion threatens Al-Raqqah, the “capital city” of ISIS in Syria, forcing it to allocate reinforcements to halt the progress of the Kurdish forces from Tell Abyad southward.
Al-Hasakah (called Al-Barakah by ISIS)
- According to a report from June 25, 2015, ISIS operatives managed to enter two neighborhoods in the city of Al-Hasakah, which is controlled by the Syrian regime forces and Kurdish forces. The attack began with a car bomb attack at Syrian Army checkpoints in the southwest of the city (Al-Mayadeen, June 25, 2015). The clashes continued on June 26, 2015. The Syrian Army attempted to retake the areas that had been infiltrated by ISIS operatives. An ISIS commander codenamed Abu al-Baraa the Tunisian was reportedly killed in these clashes. A senior Syrian officer by the name of Ghassan Halawah was also reported killed in Al-Hasakah (ISIS-affiliated Twitter account, June 24-25, 2015).
- On June 26, 2015, the fighting in the city of Al-Hasakah continued. ISIS operatives took control of the local military security facility and other positions of the Syrian regime in the eastern parts of the city. Battles also took place in the area of the central prison, located in the western part of the Ghuwayran neighborhood. On June 27, 2015, ISIS operatives gained control of several neighborhoods in Al-Hasakah, after managing to enter the city from the south and east (aljazeera.net, June 27, 2015; Aamaq, June 27, 2015). On June 27, 2015, ISIS issued a communiqué detailing the names of neighborhoods in the city occupied by the organization (ISIS-affiliated Twitter account, June 27, 2015).
- On June 25, 2015, the alliance of rebel organizations, which includes the Al-Nusra Front, attacked the southern neighborhoods of the city of Daraa, held by the Syrian security forces. The attack was part of an operation called Southern Storm, with the goal of taking over the city. The rebel forces reportedly managed to take over a Syrian Air Force intelligence and military security headquarters in the city of Daraa. They also destroyed the Syrian security forces’ checkpoints in the city. According to estimates, the rebels now control more than 70% of the Daraa province (Al-Arabiya TV, June 25, 2015).
- During the operation, the rebel forces reportedly managed to block the Damascus to Daraa highway and prevent the arrival of reinforcements from Damascus to the city of Daraa (aljazeera.net, June 25, 2015). On the other hand, the Syrian forces, reinforced by Hezbollah forces and with the support of the Air Force, reportedly managed to repel several attacks on this highway (Al-Mayadeen, June 27, 2015).
The Druze village of Hader
- This week as well, local clashes continued in the area of the Druze village of Hader, in the northern Syrian Golan Heights. The clashes took place between the Syrian security forces, reinforced by Hezbollah operatives, and the rebel forces in the area known as Al-Hamr Hills, near Hader. Four operatives of the rebel forces and eight Hezbollah operatives were reportedly killed in the fighting in the area (Twitter, June 27, 2015). On June 28, 2015, clashes were reported between the Syrian forces and the rebel forces, including Al-Nusra Front operatives, in the area of Jubata al-Khashab and Hader (Hader Al-Hadath Facebook page, June 28, 2015).
The Al-Qalamoun Mountains (along the Syrian-Lebanese border)
- This week as well, fighting continued in the northern Al-Qalamoun Mountains between Hezbollah and Syrian Army forces and Al-Nusra Front operatives, without any significant achievement on either side. On the night of June 25-26, 2015, Hezbollah forces attacked ISIS operatives in the Ras Baalbek ridges. In addition, ISIS operatives tried to infiltrate into one of Hezbollah’s outposts in the Arsal ridges but they were ambushed and seven of them were killed (Al-Nashra, June 27, 2015).
- On June 29, 2015, a video was posted on YouTube showing an anti-tank missile being launched at a jeep allegedly belonging to a Hezbollah commander. The incident took place in Al-Rahwe, in the western Al-Qalamoun Mountains, approximately 8.5 km southeast of Arsal, in the area where the Al-Nusra Front operates. The video claims that all passengers in the jeep were killed (Twitter, June 29, 2015; YouTube, June 28, 2015).
Main developments in Iraq
- The Iraqi government reported scores of fatalities and injuries among ISIS operatives, including several commanders, in clashes in the Al-Anbar province. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi reportedly expressed his willingness to give the Sunni tribesmen a more central role in restoring control over the province (Al-Hurra, June 28, 2015).
- On June 28, 2015, ISIS published photos documenting vehicle armoring in Fallujah (Isdarat al-Dawla al-Islamiyya, June 28, 2015).
Salah al-Din province
- On June 28, 2015, ISIS published photos showing a sacred place of the “infidels” being blown up in the Salah al-Din province (Isdarat al-Dawla al-Islamiyya, June 28, 2015). The nature of the destroyed building is unclear.
Al-Jazeera province (the area of Sinjar)
- A video released by ISIS on behalf of its Al-Jazeera province in Iraq (the northern border region between Iraq and Syria) shows ISIS operatives who came from the Caucasus congratulating jihadi operatives from the Caucasus on joining ISIS and on their pledge of allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi last week (Isdarat al-Dawla al-Islamiyya, June 27, 2015).
The conduct of the Islamic State
Anniversary of the declaration of the Islamic Caliphate
On June 29, 2015, ISIS marked the first anniversary of the declaration of the Islamic Caliphate. In the year that has passed since the declaration, the Islamic State, led by ISIS, continued to establish its control in large areas of eastern Syria and northern Iraq, despite airstrikes by the US and the coalition. In the areas under its control in Syria and Iraq, ISIS continued to set up alternative systems of governance in place of the Syrian regime, and to provide essential services to the population (water, food, electricity and education). At the same time, ISIS developed policing and justice mechanisms, brutally imposing Islamic law (Sharia) on the population, while committing acts of cruelty toward its opponents and its enemies inside and outside the areas under its control.
Concurrently with its establishment in Syria and Iraq, last year ISIS managed to establish new provinces outside of Iraq and Syria: in the Sinai Peninsula, a province was established through the jihadi organization Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, which pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in November 2014; in Libya, ISIS managed to set up three provinces: the Barqa province (in the east), the Tripoli province (in the west), and the Fezzan province (in the south); in Nigeria, Boko Haram pledged allegiance to ISIS; in the Caucasus, ISIS recently announced the establishment of four new provinces: Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia, and the United Vilayat of KBK (Kabarda, Balkaria and Karachay).
Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula
The jihadi campaign against the Egyptian security forces
- The Egyptian security forces continued their intensive security operations against the global jihad operatives in the Sinai Peninsula. Among other things, the security forces killed Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis operatives, detained additional operatives, detonated IEDs, destroyed terrorist infrastructure and confiscated cars, motorcycles and weapons (Dot Misr, Al-Masry al-Youm, Al-Youm al-Sabea). Egyptian security forces reported that they had foiled the entry of three car bombs into one of the airports in the Sinai Peninsula (Al-Watan, June 28, 2015). They also claim to have foiled an attack that was supposed to be carried out on the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip concurrently with the attacks in France, Tunisia and Kuwait (Al-Rai, June 29, 2015). Note: A combined showcase attack was carried out on July 1, 2015, against the Egyptian security forces. The attack took place after the current bulletin was issued and will be analyzed in the next bulletin.
- On June 26, 2015, there were clashes between Egyptian security forces and an Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis squad consisting of three operatives wearing army uniforms. As the squad operatives approached the opening of a tunnel in the Rafah area, they exchanged fire with the Egyptian security forces. Two of the armed operatives were wounded and fled into the tunnel, which is about two kilometers long (Ma’an News Agency, June 26, 2015).
- The Islamic State in Sinai, ISIS’s branch, issued a warning to all those who work in the transportation and import sector, and especially to the Abnaa Sinai company. The reason, according to ISIS, is that the company’s owners are collaborating with the Jews and helping the Egyptian Army. ISIS called on everyone associated with this company to cease all contact with it (Rassd, June 24, 2015).
- According to reports, operatives of the Islamic State’s Sinai province have recently been recruiting Muslim Brotherhood operatives. The recruitment is intended to fill a shortage of operatives in the Islamic State by capitalizing on the Muslim Brotherhood operatives’ motivation to take revenge on the current Egyptian regime, especially after the verdict against Mursi was issued (Al-Monitor, June 24, 2015).
The global jihad in other countries
- An attack was carried out at a gas plant in a town by the name of Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, near Lyon, killing one man and wounding two others. The attack began when two men drove a car into the factory, carrying Islamic flags with them (this probably refers to black jihadi flags). The two men caused a series of explosions of gas tanks on the premises. Security personnel called to the scene found the headless body of a man, flanked by two Islamic flags, near the entrance.
- The body was that of a local businessman, the employer of one of the perpetrators of the attack. The plant itself belongs to an American corporation by the name of Air Product. One of the terrorists was killed in the shootout with the security forces and the other was arrested.
- The terrorist who was arrested is Yassin Salah. According to the French Interior Ministry, Yassin Salah has no criminal record but is known to the police and was included in the list of Muslims liable to go through a process of radicalization (Israeli daily Haaretz, June 28, 2015). The authorities are now checking whether he had other partners (AP, June 26, 2015).
- At this stage, the ITIC has no reliable information about the identity of the perpetrators. However, beheading (a modus operandi characteristic of ISIS) and the choice of a plant that belongs to an American corporation may indicate that the perpetrators were affiliated with or inspired by ISIS. On June 28, 2015, an ISIS-affiliated Twitter account posted a photo of a severed head. The perpetrator sent a selfie with the severed head to the United States (ISIS-affiliated Twitter account, June 28, 2015).
- Thirty-eight people were killed and a few dozen were wounded in a shooting attack at a hotel beach in the resort town of Sousse. An armed man, posing as a tourist, broke into the Imperial Marhaba Hotel. He went to the hotel’s beach, concealing his weapons, and opened fire.Most of the casualties were Western tourists. The dead included 15 British tourists and tourists from France, Germany and Belgium. The terrorist shooter was killed in a gunfight with the hotel’s security guards.
- ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack on June 26 and issued the following statement:
June 26, 2015
Death and injury of dozens of nationals of the Crusader coalition in a high quality raid in the city of Sousse in Muslim Tunisia
In a high quality raid, whose basis for success was prepared by Allah, a soldier of the caliphate, the devout knight [Abu Yahya al-Qayrawani] went to attack unclean nests, nests of immorality, abomination and heresy against Allah, in the city of Sousse. In spite of the stringent [security] measures that were taken around these nests on the Al-Qantawi beach, our brother managed to reach the target at the [Imperial] Hotel and, with the help of Allah, he managed to make his way to cause the infidels immense sorrow, nearly forty dead and a similar number of wounded, most of them nationals of countries of the Crusader coalition that is fighting against the Caliphate State. This was a painful blow and a message painted in blood to those in Tunisia who have rejected Islam and to those who are behind them, their masters in the Crusader alliance [i.e. the West]. With Allah’s help, they will find out what will hurt them in the days ahead. In Muslim Tunis there are devout men who do not condone exploitation and [have first-hand knowledge of] the battlefields of jihad in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and elsewhere. We ask Allah to accept our brother to the group of shahids and turn his blood into light that will illuminate the path of the believers, especially of Allah, wherever they may be.
- The shooting attack was carried out by Sayf al-Din al-Rizqi, aka Abu Yahya al-Qayrawani.Rizqi, 23, was a native of Qa Afur, about 93 km southwest of the capital Tunis. He was accepted to study electrical engineering in the city of Al-Qayrawan. On his Facebook page, his profile picture shows him with a sword and a background picture praising jihad. The caption reads: “If the love of jihad is a crime, then the world will be witness to the fact that I am a criminal.” Until 2013, his Facebook postings were apparently not unusual, but during 2014 they underwent a significant change and he began writing many posts praising ISIS (CNN, June 27, 2015).
- Following the shooting attack, and the shock that it caused, the Tunisian government decided to close more than eighty mosques that are not supervised by the state, claiming that they were inciting violence. In addition, the Prime Minister announced that the government would reevaluate the topic of financing non-profit organizations dealing with religious matters (CNN, June 28, 2015).
This is the second shooting attack carried out this year at a Tunisian tourist site. On March 18, 2015, several armed men carried out a mass terrorist attack in the Bardo National Museum, near the parliament building in the capital, Tunis. These shooting attacks were apparently intended to harm Western tourism in Tunisia, thereby destabilizing the Tunisian regime and laying the groundwork for ISIS to establish itself in the country.
- On June 26, 2015, during Friday prayers,a suicide bombing attack was carried out at the Shiite Imam Al-Sadeq Mosque in Kuwait City by a suicide bomber armed with an explosive belt. This attack killed 27 people and wounded 227.Responsibility for the attack was claimed by the Islamic State, which issued a formal statement claiming responsibility on behalf of the Najd province, in Saudi Arabia (the Najd province in central Saudi Arabia was officially declared on May 30, 2015). According to the statement, the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber codenamed Abu Sulaiman al-Muwahhid, by means of an explosive belt. The target of the attack was reportedly a well-known Shiite mosque that had advocated war against the jihadists (Isdarat al-Dawla al-Islamiyya, June 26, 2015)
Top right: ISIS operative just seconds before carrying out the suicide bombing attack (ISIS-affiliated Twitter account, June 28, 2015).Bottom right: The destruction of the mosque (ISIS-affiliated Twitter account, June 28, 2015) Left: ISIS’s Najd province claim of responsibility for the attack on the Shiite Imam Al-Sadeq Mosque in Kuwait City (Isdarat al-Dawla al-Islamiyya, June 26, 2015)
- According to Kuwait’s interior ministry, the suicide bomber’s real name is Fahd Suleiman Abdulmohsen al-Qabba, born in 1992, a Saudi citizen. According to the Kuwaiti authorities, the terrorist left Riyadh for Bahrain and arrived in Kuwait on a flight from Bahrain on the day of the suicide bombing attack. Kuwaiti authorities arrested five suspects, including Abdul Rahman Sabah Aidan Saud, the taxi driver who drove the suicide bomber to the mosque and fled the scene. The taxi driver is an illegal alien in Kuwait who was found hiding in southern Kuwait City (Al-Hayat, Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, June 28, 2015). A wide alert was declared in Kuwait. A national day of mourning was also declared. The Emir of Kuwait arranged for a special plane to fly the bodies of the victims for burial in the Shiite holy city of Najaf in Iraq (Al-Hayat, June 28, 2015).
The Derna region
- In and around the city of Derna in eastern Libya, fighting continued between a local jihadi organization (The Shura Council of the Jihad Fighters of Derna) and operatives of ISIS’s branch in the city. At the same time, the Libyan Air Force attacked ISIS positions in the hills surrounding Derna, from where ISIS operatives launch mortars and ISIS snipers fire at the city’s residents (Akhbar Libya, June 25, 2015).
- On June 27, 2015, ISIS spokesman and chief propagandist Abu Mohammad al-Adnani issued an audiotape stating that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had accepted the pledge of allegiance made by jihadi operatives in the Caucasus. According to the audiotape, Al-Baghdadi has appointed Abu Muhammad al-Qadri as the head of one of the provinces in the Caucasus (Isdarat al-Dawla al-Islamiyya, June 27, 2015).
On June 21, 2015, a tape in Russian was released showing jihadi operatives from the Caucasus pledging allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The operatives announced that they had joined the Islamic State on behalf of the provinces of Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia and KBK (The United Vilayat of Kabarda, Balkaria and Karachay) (YouTube, June 21, 2015).
Counterterrorism and preventive activity
- According to a report published in the Turkish media, the Turkish Army has been ordered to take measures to prevent a possible advance by ISIS into Turkish territory. According to the report, the Turkish government ordered the army to take all measures to prevent ISIS operatives from taking over parts of the region west of the city of Marea, which is close to two border crossings between Turkey and Syria (Bab al-Salam and Bab al-Hawa, north of Aleppo).
- The report cites unidentified sources who claim that the Turkish government sees the possibility of ISIS advancing as a real threat. On the government’s orders, the army is now preparing plans that include, inter alia, the possibility of sending ground forces into the area of the Jarabulus border crossing and creating a buffer zone of ten kilometers within Syrian territory (Hürriyet, June 28, 2015).
- Aiuf Borchashvili, a native of Pankisi, Georgia, was detained in Gombori, a village near Pankisi. According to reports, Aiuf Borchashvili is the ISIS representative in Georgia who recruited operatives for ISIS and arranged their passage to Syria. Three operatives recruited by him were detained before leaving for Syria. Several residents of Pankisi were detained along with him, including a relative of Abu Omar the Chechen, an ISIS military commander in northern Syria, but all of them have been released (Civil.ge, June 15, 2015).
See the ITIC’s Information Bulletin from June 29, 2015: “The US-led international campaign against ISIS (interim assessment, updated to end of June 2015)”.