Spotlight on Global Jihad
SDF fighter at an ISIS car bomb workshop which has been located in searches at Al-Mashlab neighborhood (YouTube, June 13, 2017).
Detonation of an ISIS car bomb in the Al-Mashlab neighborhood (Haqq, June 8, 2017).
Turki al-Binali delivering one of his sermons in Sirte (Haqq, June 9, 2017)
A Syrian Army commander reports on the achievements of the Syrian Army on the Syrian-Iraqi border (Syrian TV YouTube account SyrianTVChannels7, June 12, 2017)
Iraqi police force in the Zanjili neighborhood taken over from ISIS (Al-Sumaria, June 10, 2017)
The scene of the attack in the town of Musayyib (Sawt Al-Iraq, June 10, 2017)
The scene of the attack on the Kirkuk-Baghdad road (Al-Sumaria, June 10, 2017)
The five squad members of ISIS who carried out the combined attack in the Majles building and at the Khomeini Mausoleum (Haqq, June 9, 2017)
Weapons, explosives and an ISIS flag found in the possession of four ISIS operatives in Hormozgan Province (Tasnim, June 12, 2017)
Main events of the week
Russian involvement in Syria
- Sergei Rudskoy, a senior officer in the Russian General Staff, and Sergei Surovikin, Commander of the Russian forces in Syria, held a press conference on the situation in Syria. The commander of the Russian forces in Syria reported that during the past month, the Russian Air Force carried out 1,268 sorties in Syria, destroyed 3,200 terrorist installations and mopped up an area of about 3,922 square kilometers from the presence of terrorists. According to him, the terrorist targets that were destroyed included: an ISIS headquarters, weapons depots, training camps, and a transit base.
- During the press conference, the two criticized the activity of the international coalition countries in the Al-Tanf area (the tri-border area of Syria, Jordan, and Iraq). They noted that the United States’ fear of the Syrian forces reaching the border was unjustified because Russia is supporting the advance of the regime’s forces along the Syrian-Iraqi border, as well as between Syria and Jordan. They also said that the coalition countries had allowed ISIS to move from Al-Raqqah to Palmyra and Deirez-Zor (TASS News Agency, June 9, 2017).
- In a speech given by Russian President Vladimir Putin at a conference of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, he said that Russia has information that ISIS is working to destabilize southern Russia and Central Asia. He called on countries participating in the conference to increase their intelligence cooperation (TASS News Agency, June 9, 2017). Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygusaid at the conference that Russia’s fighting in Syria against Islamic groups had halted their spread to the member states of the organization (Russia, Central Asia, and China). He also stressed his concern over the expansion of ISIS’s activity in Afghanistan. He called on the organization’s members to create effective tools for cooperation against Islamic terrorism (Sputnik, June 9, 2017).
- In a UN Security Council briefing on terrorist attacks, Evgeniy Zagaynov, the Russian Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, said that since 2015, ISIS’s revenues from crude oil trading had significantly dropped, as a result of the involvement of the Russian Air Force in Syria.According to him, ISIS’s oil revenues have dropped from $25 million a month to $12 million. According to Zagaynov, since Russia began to operate against ISIS in Syria, about 4,000 gas tankers, 176 oil refineries, 112 pumping stations and about 206 gas and oil production facilities have been destroyed (TASS News Agency, June 9, 2017).
Main developments in Syria
The campaign to take over Al-Raqqah
- During the week, the SDF forces had additional achievements:
- In east Al-Raqqah, the forces took over the Al-Mashlab neighborhood and several sites in the Al-Jazra neighborhood (Al-Sham Network, June 8, 2017). The forces continue their advance towards the Al-Sina’ah neighborhood (Qasiyoun, June 9-10, 2017) and the center and reached the Old City wall, west of the Al-Sina’ah neighborhood (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights; Reuters, June 12, 2017). After taking over the Al-Jazra neighborhood, the SDF forces exposed a tunnel network which was used by ISIS to escape Coalition airstrikes and transfer weapons and ammunition to the city neighborhoods (EnabBaladi, June 12, 2017). In the Al-Mashlab neighborhood, SDF fighters uncovered a car bomb workshop.
- In northwest Al-Raqqah, the Al-Sha’abiyya quarter was taken over. On June 11, 2017, it was reported that after two days of fighting, the SDF forces took over the Al-Roumaniyya neighborhood (Al-Sham Network, June 11, 2017). On the outskirts of the west Al-Raqqahneighborhood of Hittin, clashes take place between the parties (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, June 14, 2017).
- In north Al-Raqqah, on June 12, 2017, the SDF forces took over parts of the former base of the Syrian Army’s Division 17 and the compound of the sugar factory (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights; Reuters, June 12, 2017). According to Mus’ab al-Hussein, SDF forces fighter, the sugar factory is of “strategic importance” since it allows shooting at Al-Raqqah’s northern neighborhoods (YouTube, June 12, 2017).
- Similarly to the campaign for Mosul, ISIS operatives also made extensive use of suicide bombers who blew themselves up with car bombs and explosive belts to try and curb the advance of the SDF forces in Al-Raqqah. According to ISIS reports, on June 7, 2017, an ISIS operative detonated a car bomb near a building where the SDF forces were staying, in the Al-Mashlab neighborhood. On June 11, 2017, ISIS operatives detonated a car bomb near a gathering of SDF forces in the Al-Roumaniyya neighborhood (Al-Sham Network, June 11, 2017).
Open corridor for ISIS operatives to retreat from Al-Raqqah southwards
- This week as well, there were reports of ISIS operatives leaving Al-Raqqah to the south. A delegation of tribes affiliated with ISIS is reportedly negotiating with SDF representatives in an attempt to reach an agreement on the safe departure of ISIS operatives from the city towards Deirez-Zor, in return for surrendering the city to the SDF forces. Ibrahim al-Hassan, member of the civilian council of the Al-Raqqah Province, denied the above (Shafaq News, June 11, 2017).
The US supplies weapons to the SDF
- According to a report on the Al-Jazeera Channel, after the announcement of the opening of the campaign to take over Al-Raqqah, convoys of US arms including advanced weapons arrived in the region. According to SDF Spokesman TalalSelo, the arms included light, medium and heavy weapons, as well as anti-tank weapons and armored vehicles. According to the SDF forces, not only does the US equip the forces, it also trains them and provides them with logistic support. Senior White House officials noted that the support of the SDF is limited to an ad hoc purpose, i.e., the takeover of Al-Raqqah (Al-Jazeera, June 10, 2017).
- Fighting continues in the Palmyra region between the Syrian forces and ISIS operatives: This week, the battles focused on the Tell Sawane area and the area of the grain silos northeast of Palmyra (Al-Sham Network, June 10, 2017). According to reports, there were also battles between ISIS and the Syrian forces in the area of the Aarak gas field, about 24 km northeast of Palmyra. The purpose of the Syrian forces is reportedly to take over the town of Al-Sukhnah, on the road leading to Deirez-Zor(Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, June 11, 2017).
- This week, fighting continued between ISIS and the Syrian forces in the military airfield and the Panorama Square (about 6 km southeast of Deir ez-Zor). According to media affiliated with the Syrian regime, ISIS sustained dozens of killed and wounded (Syrian Army Spokesperson's Office, June 10, 2017).
- ISIS announced that Turki al-Binali, a senior ISIS operative, was killed in a US airstrike in Deir ez-Zor. Al-Binali was among the leaders of ISIS’s Libyan branch and used to deliver sermons in the city of Sirte when ISIS controlled the city. He was considered a senior religious authority in ISIS and used to move between Libya and Syria (Haqq, June 9, 2017).
The Syrian-Iraqi border
- On June 9, 2017, the Syrian Chief of Staff announced that the Syrian security forces and their allies had taken over the Al-Tanf Border Crossing between Syria and Iraq and several sites of strategic importance in the heart of the Syrian Desert. The announcement also stated that the forces had taken over a total area of 20,000 square kilometers east and south of the city of Palmyra, and killed hundreds of ISIS operatives. The Syrian Chief of Staff described these achievements as a “strategic turning point in fighting against terrorism” (Syrian TV; Syrian TV YouTube channel SyrianTVChannels7, June 10, 2017). Rebel forces and Syrian opposition elements denied the above (Al-Jazeera, June 10, 2017; Al-Sham Network, June 9, 2017).
- However, on June 13 and 14, 2017, it was reported that on June 9, 2017, the Syrian forces had reached the Syrian-Iraqi border, at a distance of 20 km northeast of the Al-Tanf Border Crossing (rather than the crossing itself, as claimed by the Syrian Chief of Staff). The Syrian regime claimed that its forces had opened an unofficial border crossing 20 km northeast of the Al-Tanf Crossing, which was already functional. Syrian TV broadcasted photos showing trucks carrying goods passing from Syria to Iraq and from Iraq to Syria (Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, June 14, 2017).
- Pentagon officials reported that the US Army had transferred a portable missile system (HIMARS) from Jordan to the Al-Tanf Crossing. A Pentagon officer said that the Americans had reinforced their presence and their foothold in Al-Tanf against any threat by the forces supporting the Assad regime (almasdarnews.com, June 14, 2017).
- The Shura Council of the ISIS-affiliated Khaled bin Al-Walid Army appointed Mohammad Rifat al-Rifai, aka Abu Hashem, as the new commander (emir) of the organization. The previous emir Abu Mohammad al-Maqdisi was killed on June 6, 2017, in an airstrike in the town of Al-Shajara, in the Yarmouk Basin. Mohammad al-Rifai is from the town of Tell Shehab, west of Daraa. He served as the military emir of the Shuhada Al-Yarmouk Brigade (EnabBaladi, June 9, 2017; Twitter, June 6, 2017).
Main developments in Iraq
The campaign for the takeover of Mosul
- The deputy commander of the Popular Mobilization Units, the pro-Iranian militias supporting the Iraqi government in the fight against ISIS, announced that his forces had finished the missions they were assigned west of Mosul. According to him, so far, the forces have killed about 2,000 ISIS operatives, and they are now waiting for the instruction of the Supreme Commander of the Iraqi Armed Forces (the Iraqi Prime Minister) to start the operation to liberate Tal Afar District (Al-Sumaria, June 9, 2017). Tal Afar District is between Mosul and the Syrian-Iraqi border, and it still includes an ISIS enclave.
ISIS’s terror and guerrilla activities throughout Iraq
- ISIS continued to carry out terrorist and guerrilla attacks throughout Iraq, mainly in areas with a Shiite population:
- In the holy city of Karbala, which is sacred for the Shiites,a suicide bomber blew himself up with an explosive vest among a crowd of Shiites. Thirty people were killed and 35 others were wounded (Haqq, June 9, 2017).
- In the town of Musayyib in Babil Province, about 50 km south of Baghdad, a suicide bomber blew himself up with an explosive vest. A total of 37 people were killed and forty others were wounded (Haqq, June 9, 2017). According to Iraqi sources, twenty people were killed in the attack and 21 others were wounded (Al-Sumaria, June 9, 2017).
- Kirkuk: A car bomb driven by a suicide bomber exploded about 20 km south of Kirkuk, on the Kirkuk-Baghdad road, near a checkpoint of the Iraqi security forces. The checkpoint personnel sustained two fatalities and three wounded (Al-Sumaria, June 10, 2017). Apparently, ISIS was behind the attack.
Global jihad activity in other countries
ISIS’s combined terrorist attack in Tehran
- The Iranian Interior Ministry announced that 17 people had been killed and 52 wounded in the terrorist attack in Tehran. Apparently, most of the victims were in the Majles building. Several dozen people were detained on suspicion of helping to carry out the attacks. Revolutionary Guard forces were deployed around regime institutions, and the Intelligence Ministry declared the highest alert (Tasnim, June 7, 2017).
- The five terrorists who carried out the attacks were killed. The codenames of the five, which appeared on ISIS’s weekly Al-Naba, indicate that they were of Iranian descent (Al-Naba, June 8, 2017). According to several reports, the attacks were carried out by Iranians of Kurdish descent (Al-Hayat, June 12, 2017). ISIS’s news agency posted a video where the five terrorists are seen before leaving for the attack. According to the Iranian intelligence minister, the place where the video was filmed has been located (Fars, June 9, 2017).
- According to the Iranian Intelligence Ministry, the interrogation of the incident revealed that the perpetrators of the attacks had joined ISIS in 2016 and taken part in the fighting in Mosul and Al-Raqqah. They arrived in Iran about a year ago, along with their commander, codenamed Abu Aisha, seeking to examine the possibility of carrying out terrorist attacks in the Iran’s holy cities. The group was exposed by the Iranian authorities, and their senior figures, including Abu Aisha, were killed. The rest fled Iran (Tasnim, June 8, 2017; Al-Hayat, June 12, 2017).
Another incident in southern Iran
- The Iranian police announced on June 12, 2017, that it had killed four armed ISIS operatives and detained five others in Hormozgan Province, southern Iran, as part of a series of detentions carried out by the Iranian security forces against ISIS networks in the region. Two of the operatives killed are foreign nationals. The Iranian authorities released photos of weapons and explosives found in the possession of the four operatives and an ISIS flag that they had carried (PUKmedia, June 12, 2017; Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, June 13, 2017).
- Following are several statements by senior Iranian officials in the wake of the terrorist attacks:
- Iranian Intelligence Minister Mohammad Alaviannounced that Iran had detained the elements that were behind the attacks. According to him, during the past two years, the Iranian intelligence has foiled over a hundred attempts to carry out terrorist attacks in Iran. Furthermore, he noted that it was not yet possible to determine whether Saudi Arabia was involved in the incidents. However, the impact of the Saudi support on terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria is clearly evident (ISNA, June 8, 2017).
- HosseinNaqavi-Hosseini, the spokesman for the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission of the Iranian Majles, said that the terrorist attack was a result of the US-Zionist regime-Saudi Arabia triangle. He stressed that the terrorist operatives had not succeeded in operating in Iran, although they had tried to do so time and again. According to him, the Iranian security forces managed to prevent the terrorist operatives from carrying out their plan at Khomeini’s Mausoleum. However, he admitted that they had been less successful in the Majles (Mehr, June 10, 2017).
- Revolutionary Guard Commander Ali Jaafarideclared that Saudi Arabia, the US, and the Zionist regime had supported the terrorist operatives. According to him, Iran had precise information that Saudi Arabia not only supported the terrorist operatives but even instructed them to carry out the attack in Iran (Fars, June 12, 2017).
ISIS’s claim of responsibility
- ISIS was quick to claim responsibility for carrying out the attacks in Tehran. According to the announcement released by ISIS, after a long period in which many Shiites sustained losses in various countries around the world, ISIS decided to carry out an attack on Iranian soil. According to the announcement, those who carried out the attacks were armed with automatic weapons and hand grenades and wore explosive belts. ISIS took the unusual step of releasing a video filmed in the Iranian Majles building by one of the squad members while carrying out the attack (Twitter, June 7, 2017).
- The recent issue of ISIS’s weekly Al-Naba featured an infographic entitled “The Invasion of Tehran.” According to the infographic, the first squad consisted of two suicide bombers who detonated their explosive vests among a crowd of Shiite visitors at the Khomeini Mausoleum compound, killing and wounding dozens of people. Another squad, consisting of three terrorists wearing explosive belts,broke into the Iranian Majles. They took control of it and killed whoever they encountered (Al-Sawarim, June 7, 2017).
ISIS calls for the continuation of the terrorist attacks against Iran and the Shiites
- Following the attacks in Tehran, ISIS released a video in Farsi, accompanied by Arabic subtitles, showing five masked operatives, members of the squad that carried out the two attacks. The speaker calls on Sunni Muslims to initiate jihad and spill the blood [of the Shiites] as they spill the blood of [Sunni] Muslims everywhere. Subsequently, the speaker also threatens Saudi Arabia and notes that the Saudis should know that after Iran, their turn will also come and “Allah willing, we will hit you in your homes” (Haqq, June 9, 2017).
- Abu Abdallah al-Muhajir, the commander of the Soldiers of the Caliphate in East Asia (ISIS’s Province of East Asia), granted an interview to ISIS’s Al-Naba weekly. He said that his people’s pledge of allegiance to ISIS was made immediately after Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced the establishment of the Caliphate. However, the announcement of this event was delayed. He also said that the situation of ISIS operatives in the Philippines was getting better, they are increasing in number, as is the amount of weapons in their possession. He noted that during the recent two years, they waged fierce battles against the Philippine Army and caused them tremendous losses. He dismissed the promise made by Philippines President Duterte to eliminate them.
Counterterrorim and preventive activity
- The Lebanese security forces announced that they had detained seven suspects, four of them Palestinians, who intended to carry out suicide bombing attacks against Lebanese targets. All the suspects are reportedly affiliated with ISIS. Among the targets mentioned: senior army and government figures, the international airport, Beirut’s Southern (Shiite) Suburb, and restaurants. Two additional operatives who belonged to the terrorist squad are currently outside Lebanon (Al-Akhbar; MTV, June 10, 2017).
The battle for hearts and minds
Calling on ISIS operatives to sacrifice themselves in Syria and Iraq and to increase attacks worldwide
- Recently, ISIS published an English-language message addressed at Muslim residents of Russia and Western countries (the USA, Russia, France, Britain, Canada, Belgium, Australia, and Italy). The message calls on them to stay away from places frequented by Christians (such as shops, gardens, and streets) because they constitute legitimate targets for attacks by ISIS in various forms, such as detonating IEDs, vehicular attacks, and slitting throats. The message tells the Christians that ISIS has prepared thousands of “individual lions” (i.e., lone wolf terrorists) for them, who are prepared to act for the sake of Allah. The message ends with a call on “the soldiers of the Islamic State” to increase their activity in the countries of the “infidels” (Haqq, June 9, 2017).
- On June 12, 2017, ISIS’s Al-Furqan Media Foundation released a new audiotape by ISIS spokesman Abul-Hasan Al-Muhajir. Two noteworthy topics on the tape:
- Strengthening the morale of ISIS operatives fighting in Mosul, Al-Raqqah, Tal Afar (west of Mosul) and other battle zones in Iraq and Syria. The spokesman noted that the Islamic State now faces a “divine ordeal” against the “infidel nations” that are fighting it. He compared the steadfastness of ISIS operatives to that of Mohammad and his supporters in the early days of Islam, when they faced trials and tribulations that only strengthened their faith and led to their ultimate victory. The spokesman called on ISIS operatives to intensify their activities during the month of Ramadan, to strike at their enemies with all their might, to adhere to their faith in Allah, and to sacrifice themselves in the fighting.
- Calling on ISIS operatives to continue jihad and to take action against their opponents.In the various fighting zones around the world: The spokesman called on ISIS operatives in Sinai, Egypt, Khorasan (Afghanistan and Pakistan), West Africa, Somalia, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and elsewhere around the world to continue the jihad. He praised ISIS operatives in the Philippines (East Asia) for their activities in Marawi. The spokesman also praised ISIS operatives in Iran, noting that “the home of the Iranians is weaker than a spider web.” He called on Muslims in Western countries to take action against their enemies by reminding them that paradise is achieved through jihad (Haqq, June 12, 2017).
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is an international organization established in 2001 to build confidence and enhance political, economic and security cooperation between Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
Karbala is the most sacred city for the Shiites, after Najaf. The Shiites believe that Imam Ali is buried there. The Battle of Karbala took place in 680 C.E. between Ali’s followers and the army of the Omayyad Caliph Yazid. The descendants of Imam Ali were killed in the battle, mainly the imams Hossein bin Ali and Abbas bin Ali, who are buried in Karbala.