Spotlight on Global Jihad
Qods Force Commander Qassem Soleimani briefing operatives (possibly Hezbollah), apparently in the area of Latakia, after the start of the Syrian Army’s ground offensive (Facebook, October 13, 2015)
Syrian Army tanks advancing in the rural area southwest of Aleppo (Military Media Syria’s Facebook page; YouTube, October 16, 2015)
Russian helicopters attacking in the northern rural area of Homs (ISIS-affiliated Twitter account, October 17, 2015)
ISIS operatives near checkpoints taken over from the rebel forces in Damascus’s Al-Tadamon neighborhood (ISIS-affiliated Twitter account, October 16, 2015)
Graduates of the first class training course for ISIS’s Special Forces in Mosul (Justpaste.it file-sharing website, October 18, 2015)
: ISIS operative codenamed Shuja’ al-Dusri, who carried out the attack in the Shiite mosque in the town of Saihat, Saudi Arabia (ISIS-affiliated Twitter account, October 16, 2015)
ISIS’s want ad for aeronautical engineers and other experts (ISIS-affiliated Twitter account, October 17, 2015)
The title of the video: Terrify the Jews once again, with explosions, fire and stabbing (archive.org file-sharing website, October 18, 2015)
The speaker calling on viewers to liberate the Al-Aqsa mosque “from the contamination of the descendants of apes and pigs” (Archive.org file-sharing website, October 18, 2015)
ISIS Operative from the Kirkuk province in Iraq calling on Muslims in Jerusalem to intensify their attacks against the Jews (archive.org file-sharing website, October 18, 2015)
Main events of the week
The international campaign against ISIS
US and coalition airstrikes
- During the past week, US and coalition airstrikes against ISIS targets continued. During the week, many dozens of airstrikes were carried out in Syria and Iraq by means of fighter planes, attack aircraft, and UAVs.
- Following are the main attacks (according to the US Department of Defense website):
- Syria– the airstrikes were concentrated in the areas of Al-Raqqah, Aleppo, Marea and Abu Kamal. The airstrikes damaged ISIS tactical units, vehicles, buildings, IEDs and weapons, among other things.
- Iraq– the airstrikes were concentrated in the areas of Al-Baghdadi, Baiji, Mosul, Ramadi, Samara, Sinjar, Tal Afar, Fallujah and Kisik (west of Mosul). The airstrikes damaged ISIS tactical units, buildings, artillery, battle positions, vehicles, weapons and tunnels, among other things.
- According to a report from October 16, 2015, the coalition forces hit the Qayyarah refinery in the southern Nineveh province, in northwestern Iraq. The refinery, which fell into the hands of ISIS in June 2014, was used by ISIS for the production of oil products for sale on the black market and constituted a source of income for it. It also served as a hiding place for weapons. According to the American statement, the airstrike was carried out in coordination with the Iraqi government (CENTCOM, October 17, 2015).
Russian involvement in the civil war in Syria
- According to the Russian Army chief of staff, between the start of the airstrikes on September 30, 2015 and October 16 2015, Russian planes hit 456 ISIS targets. According to the report, 394 airstrikes were carried out last week, destroying 46 communications positions, six explosive production facilities, 22 warehouses and fuel reserves, and 272 military positions and camps (Sputnik, October 16, 2015). Russia reportedly intends to expand its airstrikes in Syria up to 300 airstrikes a day and to build runways for its aircraft (Daily Mail, October 18, 2015). In the ITIC’s assessment, most of Russia’s airstrikes are aimed at targets of the rebel organizations led by the Al-Nusra Front and not against ISIS (as might be inferred from the Russian announcements).
- According to the Russian Ministry of Defense:
- On October 17, 2015, 36 airstrikes were carried out, hitting around 49 ISIS targets in Idlib, Latakia, Damascus and Aleppo. The airstrikes destroyed 11 ISIS command centers.
- On October 18, 2015, 60 airstrikes were carried out, hitting around 51 ISIS targets in Hama, Latakia Damascus and Aleppo, destroying four command centers, six weapons and military equipment warehouses, two bunkers and 32 camps.
- On October 19, 2015, 33 airstrikes were carried out, hitting 49 ISIS targets in Idlib, Latakia, Damascus, Aleppo and Hama (Russian Ministry of Defense, October 18, 2015).
- The Russian Ministry of Defense reported that the US and Russia had signed a memorandum of understanding on prevention of flight safety Incidents in the course of operations in Syria. The memorandum included several rules aimed at preventing accidents between the Russian Air Force and the US Air Force. According to the Ministry, the memorandum is of practical importance since it regulates the movement of manned and unmanned aircraft of the various armies in the skies of Syria. According to the Ministry, the US Army undertook to convey the memorandum to the rest of the US-led coalition countries (Russian Ministry of Defense website, October 19, 2015).
- Following are some statements made by Russian individuals and entities regarding Russia’s involvement in Syria:
- Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke at a regional conference held in Kazakhstan. According to him, since September 30 2015, hundreds of militants were killed in the Russian airstrikes in Syria, and the Russian Army made “impressive achievements,” particularly the destruction of arsenals and command centers (RT.com website). Putin also said that 5,000-7,000 soldiers from Russia and the Former Soviet Union countries were fighting against ISIS (RT.com).
- Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev blamed the Obama administration for the lack of progress in the talks between the US and Russia on coordinating an air offensive against ISIS.Russian Foreign Minister Anatoly Antonov said that the Americans were offered the possibility to cooperate more closely in Syria and had declined the offer at the present time. According to him, the offer includes expanding the existing arrangements regarding flights in Syrian airspace and expanding military cooperation to all aspects of the war against ISIS. According to him, such an agreement could be an impetus for future cooperation (RT.com, October 19, 2015).
Recruitment of Russian mercenaries
- On October 18, 2015, Al-Arabiya TV reported that a private Russian company by the name of Wagner was recruiting Russian mercenaries to fight in Syria. The recruited mercenaries must be aged 18-40, and the monthly salary is USD 1,300-4,000. These mercenaries are called “volunteers” because according to Section No. 359 of the Russian law, the penalty for a person acting as a mercenary is seven years in prison. According to a Syrian source, Russia has sent 2,000 mercenaries to Syria so far and wants their number to increase to 20,000 people (Alarabiya.net channel, October 18, 2015).
Main developments in Syria
The Syrian Army’s ground offensive – update
- During the week, fighting continued in the areas of Hama, Idlib and Aleppo.The fighting is part of an attack aimed to release the strategic pressure exerted by the Al-Nusra Front and its allies (Jaysh al-Fatah) on the essential strongholds of the Syrian regime in Latakia and to establish the Syrian regime’s control in northwestern Syria.
- This week, the Syrian Army’s attacks were apparently concentrated in the rural area south and southwest of Aleppo. According to Syrian and Lebanese media reports, the Syrian Army recorded local achievements and regained control of several villages. In addition, the Syrian effort to remove the siege on the Kuweyres military airbase, east of Aleppo, continued, so far unsuccessfully.
- According to media reports, several thousand fighters from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards went to Syria to aid the Syrian Army in the attack. According to a report in the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar, which is affiliated with Hezbollah, Qods Force Commander Qassem Soleimani arrived in northwestern Syria on October 11, 2015. He came to command the Syrian Army’s offensive with the support of the Revolutionary Guards (Al-Akhbar, October 13, 2015).
The fighting in the Aleppo province
- According to media reports, the Syrian Army began an extensive military operation in the southwestern periphery of Aleppo. The Syrian Army managed to regain control of several villages in the southwest of the province (Al-Mayadeen, October 16, 2015). It was also reported that the Syrian Army and its allies had clashed with ISIS and managed to take control of several villages in the southern and eastern parts of the Aleppo province (Facebook; the Syrian News Agency; Al-Mayadeen, October 18, 2015). On October 16, 2015, Military Media Syria, the Syrian Army’s Facebook page, posted a video showing two Syrian Army tanks and three APCs advancing in the rural area southwest of Aleppo (Military Media Syria’s Facebook page; YouTube, October 16, 2015).
- On October 18, 2015, in a posting on an ISIS-affiliated Twitter account, ISIS’s Aleppo province claimed responsibility for a car bomb attack against the Syrian Army. The car was driven by a suicide bomber codenamed Abu al-Mo’atassem al-Shami. The car, carrying 10 tons of explosives, exploded at a Syrian Army gathering point in Tall Na’am, about 31 km southeast of Aleppo (ISIS-affiliated Twitter account, October 18, 2015).
- The Syrian Army continues its efforts to remove the siege on the Kuweyres military airbase, east of Aleppo.To this end, the forces began to take over the villages near the airbase that are under the control of ISIS (SNN, October 17, 2015). The Syrian Army’s operation is being carried out with Russian air support. According to a report from October 17, 2015, Russian aircraft attacked ISIS positions in the area of the airbase (Khatwa News Agency, October 17, 2015).
nISIS operatives reportedly managed to take over two checkpoints of the Syrian security forces in the eastern Hama province. Eleven members of the Syrian security forces were killed (SNN, October 16, 2015). On the other hand, according to Syrian Army sources, at least 40 ISIS operatives were killed in an airstrike on an ISIS convoy consisting of 16 vehicles (Al-Arabiya TV, October 18, 2015).
Three leading Khorasan network operatives killed
- According to a report by US officials, three Al-Qaeda operatives were killed in an airstrike on October 15, 2015, in the town of Al-Dana, west of Aleppo. The three men were Abdul Mohsen Abdallah Ibrahim al-Charekh, a Saudi by birth, aka Sanafi al-Nasr. An operative codenamed Abd al-Malik al-Saudi and an operative from Morocco were killed along with him. Another operative, an Egyptian by birth, was not injured. The four men belonged to a network known as Khorasan and were in Syria on a mission for Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri (US Department of Defense website, October 18, 2015).
- According to a report by the Al-Nusra Front, Sanafi al-Nasr, commander of its forces in Latakia, was killed in an airstrike in the area of Al-Dana, along with two of his escorts. According to the Al-Nusra Front, they were attacked by American UAVs (www.ajel.sa, October 16, 2015).
The Khorasan network was first mentioned by US President Barack Obama in September 2014. It is a terrorist network operating in Syria and comprising Al-Qaeda operatives who fought in Afghanistan and Pakistan, who have been joined by a number of foreign fighters from Europe and the United States. The network operates in Syria as a branch of Al-Qaeda under the sponsorship of the Al-Nusra Front and carries out attacks against Western targets. This is not the first time that US aircraft have attacked Khorasan network’s targets. In July 2015, the US Department of Defense announced the killing of Muhsin al-Fadhli near the town of Sarmada, in the Idlib province in northwestern Syria. Muhsin al-Fadhli was the leader of the Khorasan network (US Department of Defense website, July 21, 2015). The attacks on the Khorasan network operatives are unusual since most of the US airstrikes have been concentrated on ISIS.
- On October 15, 2015, an Al-Nusra Front reporter posted two photos on his Twitter account that had been posted by another Al-Nusra Front reporter in Aleppo. The photos show a demolished vehicle. The reporter said a coalition aircraft had hit one of the vehicles of the Mujahideen in the town of Al-Dana, located about 33 km west of Aleppo (Al-Nusra Front reporter’s Twitter account, October 15, 2015). This apparently refers to the killing of the three Khorasan network operatives.
- On October 17, 2015, an ISIS-affiliated Twitter account reported that the Syrian Army and militias loyal to it had attacked towns and villages in the northern rural area of Homs, with air support from Russian helicopters. The video shows two Russian helicopters attacking an urban area (ISIS-affiliated Twitter account, October 17, 2015).
- According to Syrian media reports, the Syrian Army is fighting against Jaysh al-Islam and the Al-Nusra Front in the rural area east and west Damascus. Senior Al-Nusra Front operative Mohammad Sarhan was reportedly killed in the clashes in the region (Dimashq al-Aan, October 17, 2015).
- According to media reports, ISIS operatives took over parts of the Yalda and Al-Tadamon neighborhoods on the southeastern outskirts of Damascus (see map). This takeover occurred after the battles waged between ISIS and other rebel organizations (a3maqagency.wordpress.com, October 16, 2015).
- On October 16, 2015, an ISIS-affiliated Twitter account posted photos showing armed ISIS operatives during the fighting against the rebel forces in Damascus’s Al-Tadamon neighborhood. The photos show ISIS operatives wearing a red ribbon above their right elbow, apparently as a means of identification (ISIS-affiliated Twitter account, October 16, 2015).
Deir al-Zor province
- ISIS continues to exert pressure on the military airbase in Deir al-Zor.On the night of October 16, 2015, ISIS operatives reportedly tried to break into the airbase and also detonated an IED near the town of Al-Jafrah. As a result, clashes broke out between the operatives and the forces of the Syrian regime (Local Coordinating Committees, October 16, 2015).
- On October 16, 2015, a Facebook page affiliated with the Syrian Army reported that a senior ISIS operative codenamed Abu Seif al-Iraqi and more than fifteen other ISIS operatives had been killed in battles with the Syrian Army in the area of the Deir al-Zor military airbase (Military.Media.Syria.Central Facebook page, October 16, 2015).
Main developments in Iraq
- The Iraqi Army continues its attempts to regain control of the city of Ramadi, so far unsuccessfully. Iraqi Army Special Forces reportedly took over an area to the north of Ramadi from the hands of ISIS and they now control the Albu-Risha region (Sputnik, October 18, 2015). On the other hand, according to a report from October 17, 2015, the Iraqi Army forces suffered heavy losses as a result of an ambush by ISIS operatives west of Ramadi. On October 17, 2015, an ISIS-affiliated Twitter account reported that 33 Iraqi Army soldiers had been killed in this incident, and nine military vehicles had been destroyed (ISIS-affiliated Twitter account, October 17, 2015).
- On October 18, 2015, a British-born ISIS operative carried out a suicide bombing attack near Ramadi, along with another terrorist. The attack was directed against the Iraqi Army Special Forces and was carried out by an operative codenamed Abu Omar al-Baritani.The terrorist attack killed around 80 people. The second suicide bomber, codenamed Abu Katiba, was probably of Syrian origin (The Daily Mail, October 18, 2015).
Salah al-Din province
- Iraqi sources claim that the Iraqi Army carried out an extensive attack in the area of Baiji and recorded achievements. They claim that most of the city was retaken by the Iraqi Army, with the exception of a few neighborhoods in the west and the area of the open market in the city center. The Iraqi Army considers the takeover of the city as its greatest success since ISIS took over the area on June 10, 2014. The joint operations command in Iraq also reported that the Iraqi regime’s forces had managed to recapture the refinery compound in Baiji from ISIS after a year of battles. These Iraqi reports require verification.
- ISIS’s media arm in the Nineveh province (in northwestern Iraq) has released photos showing operatives who, according to ISIS, have completed the first training course for ISIS’s Special Forces in Mosul. The operatives in the photos are masked, armed with Kalashnikov rifles and pistols and wearing khaki uniforms with what is apparently the insignia of the Special Forces (ISIS-affiliated Twitter account; justpaste.it, October 14, 2015).
The global jihad in other countries
- On October 16, 2015, a group calling itself ISIS’s Bahrain province claimed responsibility for the killing attack at a Shiite mosque in the town of Saihat (the Al-Qatif region of eastern Saudi Arabia). The attack was carried out by an ISIS operative codenamed Shuja ‘al-Dusri. Worshippers were killed and wounded in the bombing (ISIS-affiliated Twitter account, October 16, 2015).
- On October 16. 2015, a Twitter account opposed to ISIS posted a photo of the body of the ISIS operative who carried out the attack on the Shiite mosque in Saihat. The photo shows the operative lying on his back in the street, wearing a white jalabiya and a combat vest. His clothes are identical to those that he wore in the photo issued by ISIS before he left to carry out the attack (Twitter account opposed to ISIS, October 16, 2015).
- An airstrike carried out by US forces in Khorasan on October 13, 2015, killed Jalal al-Din, a senior ISIS operative in the Khorasan province, who had served as mufti. He was killed while riding in his car with five people. ISIS has not officially announced his death but reports of his death have also appeared on its social networks (The Long War Journal, October 15, 2015).
Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula
- Egyptian security forces continued their increased activity against ISIS’s branch in the Sinai Peninsula. Concurrently with the Egyptian counter-terrorism and preventive activity, ISIS’s Sinai province operatives continued to carry out attacks against the Egyptian security forces, mainly in the area of Sheikh Zuweid. On October 19, 2015, the Egyptian security forces announced the start of the second stage of its operation to eliminate all terror sites in the Sinai Peninsula, which was accompanied by extensive ground attacks and airstrikes.
- On October 14, 2015, Egyptian security forces reported that they had foiled an attempt to smuggle weapons intended for Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis through a tunnel along the border with the Gaza Strip. They also found seven openings of another tunnel (Al-Watan, October 14, 2015). The forces also reported that they had exposed a tunnel under a house in Rafah where ISIS insignia and uniforms were found, along with guns and sniper rifles, IEDs and satellite radios (Egyptian Defense Ministry’s YouTube channel, October 14, 2015).
- Following are a number of incidents:
- On October 18, 2015, there were violent clashes between the Egyptian security forces and Sinai province operatives in southwestern Sheikh Zuweid (Twitter account affiliated with the Sinai province, October 18, 2015).
- On October 18, 2015, Sinai province operatives attacked an Egyptian Army armored vehicle in Al-Arish. The vehicle exploded after running over the IED. There were no casualties (Veto portal, August 18, 2015).
- On October 17, 2015, a resident of Al-Arish was wounded by an IED that had been planted on the international highway south of Al-Arish (Veto portal, October 17, 2015).
- On October 17, 2015, a soldier was killed, and three soldiers were wounded when an IED exploded in an armored vehicle on the Al-Arish bypass road (Online News Association (ONA), October 17, 2015).
- On October 16, 2015, an IED was activated against a car of the peacekeeping force in southern Sheikh Zuweid on the road to Al-Jura. Two American soldiers were slightly wounded (Al-Watan, October 17, 2015).
- On October 15, 2015, an ISIS-affiliated Twitter account reported that three members of the Egyptian security forces had been killed in an operation by ISIS operatives in Sheikh Zuweid (ISIS-affiliated Twitter account, October 15, 2015).
- On October 14, 2015, an IED exploded near the military prosecutor’s office in Al-Arish while an armored car was passing by (Al-Youm al-Sabea, October 14, 2015).
The conduct of the Islamic State
ISIS is recruiting aeronautical engineers and other experts
- On October 17, 2015, an ISIS-affiliated Twitter account posted a want ad on behalf of ISIS’s directorate of military industrialization and development.The ad says that ISIS needs specialist engineers in the fields of aviation, physics, chemistry, machinery and metals. It is also in need of metalworkers and machinists. The ad also included telephone numbers (ISIS-affiliated Twitter account, October 17, 2015).
Recruiting fighters and operatives from Belgium
- According to the UN Human Rights Commission’s report on Belgium, up to now, around 500 recruits from Belgium have gone to fight in the ranks of ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The average age of the recruits is 23 and they usually come from the lower classes where the unemployment rate among young people is 24%. The recruits from Belgium came in three main waves: the first wave in 2010, headed by the Sharia4Belgium organization, which has since been disbanded by the Belgian law enforcement agencies. The second wave was in 2012, and the third wave began in 2014 and is still continuing.
- The recruitment activity in Belgium reportedly makes use of both internal networks of friends and family and social networks. The amounts paid to the recruiters are high. Some recruiters in Syria are paid based on the number of people they have recruited and the quality of the recruits. If the recruit is a computer expert or a doctor (professionals that ISIS is in need of), then the recruiter gets a higher payment (Sputnik, October 17, 2015).
Counterterrorism and preventive activity
Call on Toyota regarding ISIS’s use of vehicles manufactured by it
- American television network ABC News reported on the widespread use of Toyota vehicles by ISIS operatives. Consequently, counter-terror officials at the US Treasury have asked Toyota to help them determine how ISIS has managed to acquire such a large number of Toyota Hilux pick-up trucks. Toyota’s response was that it didn’t know how ISIS acquired the vehicles. According to a Toyota spokesman in the US, the company has a clear policy not to sell vehicles to buyers who are liable to use them for military or terrorist activity (ABC News, October 6, 2015).
Development of computer software for the war against ISIS
- Russian scientists are reportedly developing new computer software that will identify ISIS recruiters on social networks. According to them, starting in 2016, the software will begin to identify social network accounts associated with potential recruiters and will send them a message in Arabic. It will then investigate the reply received (Sputnik, October 13, 2015).
ISIS’s battle for hearts and minds
Incitement to murder Jews
- Following are examples of the content of ISIS’s incitement campaign:
- The Al-Masra Foundation posted a series of videos supporting the Palestinians and their actions. The support videos show photos of the Temple Mount, Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, and include calls to wage a jihad for Allah on the soil of Palestine. For example, a video entitled The Slaughter of the Jews shows photos of the Old City of Jerusalem, the Temple Mount, the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque. In the background, Osama bin Laden is heard talking about the importance of Jerusalem. The video also features the voice of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi calling for a vendetta. The video shows the attacks carried out recently in Jerusalem, below the inscription “lone-wolf operations in Jerusalem.” The video also shows ISIS operatives in training, with the voice of Osama bin Laden in the background, saying that it is forbidden to recognize the existence of the Jewish State on the soil of Palestine (The Al-Masra Foundation, October 18, 2015).
- The video, released by ISIS’s information department in the Deir al-Zor province, describes the Jews as “murderers of prophets” and as those who “distorted the books of Allah and fought against the [Muslim] believers”. The Jews are also accused of having created Christianity and Shiite Islam and wielding Christians against Muslims. With photos documenting the vehicular and stabbing attack in Jerusalem in the background, the announcer says, “Stab the Jew with a knife or run over him in a car, poison him, bring back the explosives, the [use of] explosive belts and IEDs, burn their faces and their houses.” Later in the video, an ISIS operative codenamed Abu Muslim al-Masri calls for a Palestinian jihad and calls on the Palestinians “to amputate the limbs” of the Jews (archive.org file-sharing website, October 18, 2015).
- In another video from October 18, 2015, produced by the information office in ISIS’s southern province (southwestern Iraq), the speaker calls the Jews and Christians the enemies of Islam. The speaker notes that ISIS will not forget the Muslims in Jerusalem until “we restore the Al-Aqsa Mosque from the contamination of the descendants of apes and pigs.” He adds that the Islamic State is coming closer to Israel from Iraq and Syria, and that the hour of the Jews is approaching (archive.org file-sharing website, October 18, 2015).
- In another video, produced by ISIS’s Kirkuk province, an ISIS operative calls on Muslims in Jerusalem to intensify their attacks against the Jews as part of the jihad being waged against them (archive.org file-sharing website, October 18, 2015).
|ISIS recently formed a new media arm by the name of the Al-Masra Foundation, which will handle the Palestinian issue. The areas that the foundation handles include monitoring everything related to the issue of Al-Aqsa and publishing those materials, stimulating the Islamic nation to carry out jihad in order to reclaim the holy places that were stolen, first and foremost Al-Aqsa and the rest of the holy soil, and spreading awareness among Muslims about the importance of strengthening the foundations of the Islamic Caliphate. The foundation has a website which showcases agitating and inciting content calling for action against Israel, using religious imperatives and elements and visual means designed to evoke the users’ Muslim sentiments and influence them to take action. The content on the website includes: news on the subject of Jerusalem and links to videos documenting the terror attacks, glorifying the shahids and encouraging further terrorist activity. The website includes links to a number of videos produced by ISIS on the subject of Al-Aqsa and Palestine.|
Al-Masra - the route taken by Mohammad from Mecca to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, from where he ascended to heaven.