Spotlight on Global Jihad
Ahmad Salama Mabruk, aka Abu Faraj al-Masri (Twitter, October 3, 2016).
Abu Faraj al-Masri (circled in red) next to the Fateh al-Sham Front leader Abu Mohammad al-Julani, in a video released on July 28, 2016. In the video, Abu Mohammad al-Julani announces the establishment of the Fateh al-Sham Front (Al-Masdar News, October 3, 2016).
The destruction in the Al-Farafrah neighborhood in central Aleppo, which was taken over by the Syrian Army (Syrian Army, September 28, 2016).
Syrian Army soldier marching in front of an operative from the Palestinian Al-Quds Brigade in the Handarat Palestinian refugee camp north of Aleppo.
Syrian Army soldiers among the ruins of the Handarat Palestinian refugee camp (Syrian Army YouTube Account, October 1, 2016).
Scene of attack in the area of Baghdad Al-Jadida (Al-Sumaria, September 27, 2016)
Ismail Ahmed Muhammad Ali, who was executed on charges of being an agent of the Egyptian Army. A moment before the execution (Haqq, October 4, 2016)
Suicide bomber Abdullah al-Khorasani (Haqq, October 9, 2016)
Cover page of the magazine and the article encouraging stabbing attacks
Main events of the week
Increasing tension in relations between the US and Russia
- The past few days were characterized by increasing tension over the Syrian crisis between the US and the West on the one hand and Russia on the other. The reasons for this were the collapse of the ceasefire, the resumption of the Syrian Army offensive on Aleppo, intensive Russian and Syrian airstrikes against residential neighborhoods in eastern Aleppo, the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Aleppo, and the failure of attempts to deliver humanitarian aid to the city’s residents.
- The tension was characterized mainly by harsher rhetoric between the US and Russia. In this context, US Secretary of State John Kerry called for a war crimes investigation, with severe penalties for those found guilty. The Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said in response that Kerry’s announcement was designed to divert attention from the fact that the United States violated the ceasefire. Russia continues to accuse the United States of refraining from distinguishing between the Fateh al-Sham Front (formerly the Al-Nusra Front) and the “Syrian opposition” forces. According to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Russia does not rule out the possibility that the US was planning to make use of the Fateh al-Sham Front as part of a plan aimed at toppling the Assad regime (BBC, September 30, 2016).
- On October 3, 2016, US Department of State Spokesman John Kirby announced that the US was suspending its ties with Russia over the ceasefire agreement (CNN, October 3, 2016). On the other hand, President Putin issued a decree suspending Russia’s participation in the cooperation agreement with the United States for converting plutonium into nuclear reactor fuel. He claims that this was due to the “aggressive moves” of the United States against Russia and the former’s inability to uphold the agreement in Syria (Daily Mail, October 3, 2016).
- Despite the escalating rhetoric, the US and Russia have not abandoned their activity to establish a ceasefire, and talks between the US Department of State and the Russian Foreign Ministry continue. According to US Department of State Spokesman John Kirby, the US is not giving up on finding a solution to the crisis in Syria, which will determine areas designated as no-fly zones for Russian and Syrian warplanes (Reuters, October 4, 2016). According to Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov, Russia is trying to reach an agreement with the US on the renewal of the ceasefire in Syria. He added that they were prepared to begin with 48-hour ceasefires to allow delivery of humanitarian aid to Syria (TASS News Agency, October 3, 2016). Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that in order to avoid major incidents and dangerous operations in Syria, communication between Russian forces and the American forces would continue (TASS News Agency, October 4, 2016).
International coalition airstrikes
- On October 4, 2016, a senior Fateh al-Sham Front operative was killed in an airstrike by an American drone. The operative, Ahmad Salama Mabruk, aka Abu Faraj al-Masri, was killed while driving his car. Pentagon Spokesman Jeff Davis confirmed that he was target of the attack, but said the United States was still studying its results (AP, October 3, 2016). The Fateh al-Sham Front confirmed his death (Al-Arabiya; Al-Jazeera, October 3, 2016).
- According to “Egyptian security sources,” Ahmad Salama was born in Egypt in 1956. He earned an undergraduate degree in agriculture at the University of Cairo. He contacted one of those involved in the murder of President Anwar Sadat and joined a jihadi organization. Subsequently he became close to Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. Ahmad Mabruk had an important role in Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. He traveled with Al-Zawahiri to Chechnya and supervised Al-Qaeda’s operations in other countries (Al-Arabiya, October 3, 2016).
- US government sources have revealed that Russia sent Syria an S-300V4 air defense system. According to the Americans, the deployment of such systems in Syria is directed against US and coalition aircraft operating against ISIS. The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed the reports but claimed that the system was deployed in the Syrian coastal area in order to protect the base in the Port of Tartus and Russian ships sailing in the area (Fox News; RT, October 3, 2016). Russian Defense Ministry Spokesman Igor Konashenkov later said that the S-300 and S-400 systems deployed in Syria are designed to surprise any object detected flying over Syria. He added that after the US airstrike in Deir al-Zor, Russia employed all the necessary measures to prevent “mistakes” of this kind against the Russian Army and its facilities in Syria (TASS News Agency, October 6, 2016).
Main developments in Syria
The situation in Aleppo
The Syrian onslaught against rebel organizations in eastern Aleppo continues, with massive Russian air support.The Syrian forces continued to accumulate achievements in various areas in Aleppo: in the north (the area of the Al-Handarat refugee camp area and the industrial zone), center (the Al-Farafrah neighborhood), south (the area of Al-Ramousah and Sheikh Said) and northwest (in and around the village of Al-Hamrah). The rebel organizations are apparently being driven into the center of the besieged territory, although they claim to have halted the Syrian forces on several fronts.
- The humanitarian situation in Aleppo and its environs continues to deteriorate, as a result of massive airstrikes against civilian targets, fighting in built-up areas, and the inability to deliver humanitarian aid to residents trapped in the battle zones. Since the collapse of the ceasefire, hundreds of residents have been killed in Aleppo and the civilian infrastructure has sustained heavy damage. This includes several hospitals damaged by the airstrikes.
- According to Bashar Jaafari, Syria’s envoy to the UN, the Syrian government has announced that it has opened four humanitarian crossings for civilians to leave the neighborhoods in Aleppo, but “armed groups” are holding the civilians as human shields (Al-Jadid, September 30, 2016). On October 5, 2016, the Syrian regime announced the reduction of airstrikes in Aleppo. According to the regime, this is in order toenable residents to leave areas controlled by militants and travel to safe areas (Dimashq al-Aan, October 5, 2016). Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that in accordance with the proposal made by UN special envoy Staffan de Mistura, Russia is prepared to persuade the Assad regime to agree to allow Fateh al-Sham Front operatives to leave Aleppo (Sputnik, October 7, 2016).
Main events in other areas
- Following are some of the main events in other areas in Syria:
- The region west of the Euphrates River:the third stage of Operation Euphrates Shield continued. The goal of the operation is to take over the city of Al-Bab, ISIS’s last remaining stronghold. In this region there is apparently fierce fighting between ISIS and the rebel organizations supported by Turkey. Free Syrian Army forces, supported by the Turkish Army, have taken over several villages from ISIS and are advancing towards Al-Bab. Over 30 ISIS operatives were reportedly killed in the clashes (Al-Bawaba, October 5, 2016).
- The city of Al-Hasakah: ISIS carried out a suicide bombing attack among Kurds in a reception hall in the city. A total of 22 people were killed and a few dozen others were wounded. ISIS’s Al-Hasakah Province claimed responsibility for the attack, carried out by a suicide bomber codenamed Abu al-Baraa al-Ansari.
- The city of Hama: ISIS carried out two suicide bombing attacks in the city of Hama. According to an announcement by ISIS, three ISIS operatives blew themselves up with explosive belts inside the Baath Party headquarters, the city police headquarters and against the rescue forces that arrived on the scene. According to ISIS’s announcement, these attacks killed and wounded dozens of members of the Syrian regime (Haqq, October 3, 2016).
Main developments in Iraq
Preparations for the battle for the takeover of Mosul
- Preparations continue for the campaign to take over the city of Mosul from ISIS.According to a US announcement, President Obama intends to send 600 more troops to Iraq, to support the Iraqi forces. These soldiers will take part in advice and training missions but will not actively participate in the attack (NBC, September 28, 2016). At the same time, the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle began to be used for airstrikes against ISIS targets in Iraq. Eight French planes took off from its deck on September 30, 2016, for airstrikes on ISIS targets. According to a “French security source,” the planes were sent on a mission marking the beginning of the takeover of Mosul (Al-Arabiya, September 30, 2016).
ISIS’s terrorist and guerrilla onslaught
- While being pushed out of the big cities, ISIS continues its terrorist and guerrilla onslaught throughout Iraq:
- October 8, 2016 – According to an official Iraqi source, ISIS blew up two oil wells in the Al-Najma oil field north of Qayyarah. ISIS also booby-trapped additional oil wells (Al-Sumaria, October 8, 2016).
- October 8, 2016 – ISIS claimed responsibility for two suicide bombing attacks with car bombs, one at the entrance to the town of Qayyarah and the other southwest of Al-Shirqat (Haqq, October 8, 2016).
- October 7, 2016 -An attack was carried out in Baghdad, with an IED that was activated in the north of the city during a Shiite parade. A number of people were reportedly injured (Al-Sumaria, October 7, 2016).
- October 3, 2016 – ISIS carried out two suicide bombing attacks in the city of Baghdad, aimed at two Shiite parades in the city (Anatolia News Agency, October 3, 2016). ISIS claimed responsibility for the two attacks. According to ISIS, nearly 100 people were killed and wounded in the attacks (Haqq, October 3, 2016). That same day, the Iraqi police reported the killing of a suicide bomber wearing an explosive belt in the south of the city (Al-Sumaria, October 3, 2016).
- September 30, 2016 – More than 20 Iraqi Army soldiers were reportedly killed in an attack by ISIS in western Al-Anbar (Al-Jazeera, September 30, 2016).
- September 27, 2016 – A suicide bomber activated an explosive belt in the New Baghdad (Baghdad Al-Jadida) area in eastern Baghdad.Four people were killed and fifteen others were wounded (Al-Sumaria, September 27, 2016). The suicide bomber was apparently an ISIS operative.
The Sinai Peninsula
- ISIS’s Sinai Province published photos documenting the execution of a man named Ismail Ahmed Muhammad Ali, who was executed on charges of being an agent of the Egyptian Army. The photos were accompanied by a message published by ISIS on April 17, 2015, threatening that anyone who helps the Egyptian Army would be executed (Haqq, October 4, 2016).
The global jihad in other countries
- On October 2, 2016, the forces of the Libyan Government of National Accord renewed their attack against ISIS in the city of Sirte (Al-Arabiya, October 2, 2016). According to an announcement from the Information Center of the Battle of Sirte, a large force of ISIS operatives attacked the Libyan forces during an attempt to reach the Port of Sirte. The Libyan forces carried out a counterattack and managed to defeat the ISIS operatives. A total of 55 ISIS operatives were killed in the attempted attack. Another 25 ISIS operatives were killed in battles that took place in the area of the Marine Neighborhood. The Libyan forces are reportedly attacking ISIS’s last strongholds in the Marine Neighborhood, with air support from the US Air Force (Al-Jazeera, October 8, 2016).
- On October 9, 2016, ISIS’s Khorasan Province reported that ISIS operatives had attacked an American convoy southwest of Jalalabad with an IED. According to ISIS, the attack killed six American soldiers. According to the announcement, a suicide bomber codenamed Abdullah al-Khorasani blew himself up with an explosive belt among Afghan Special Forces who rushed to the scene (Haqq, October 9, 2016).
Counterterrorism and preventive activity
- According to Spain’s Interior Minister, the state authorities, in cooperation with Germany and Belgium, arrested five people (four Spaniards and one Moroccan) suspected of establishing an “active and dangerous” ISIS squad in those countries. Most of the terrorist squads activity reportedly took place in Spain, and some of it was carried out through Facebook (Reuters, September 28, 2016).
The battle for hearts and minds
Encouraging stabbing attacks
[*] Due to the High Holy Days, the next weekly bulletin will appear on Thursday, October 27, 2016. We wish all our readers Gmar Hatima Tova and a happy holiday.