Devastation in the Al-Khalidiya neighborhood in northwestern Aleppo, caused by rockets fired by the rebel organizations (SANA, April 14, 2019)
Devastation in the Al-Khalidiya neighborhood in northwestern Aleppo, caused by rockets fired by the rebel organizations (SANA, April 14, 2019)
Improvised workshop for making IEDs (ISIS’s Iraq Province – Salah al-Din Region, via Telegram, April 16, 2019)
Suicide bomber Othman Al-Baluchi (Telegram, April 13, 2019).
Main events of the week
- In the Syrian arena, the ongoing fighting is now concentrated in the Idlib area. In the past week, high-intensity exchanges of fire continued between the Syrian army and the jihadi rebel organizations, mainly the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham. According to Russian and Iranian media reports, Russian warplanes carried out airstrikes against targets of the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham in the rural area of Idlib.
- In the Iraqi arena, ISIS’s intensive activity continues in the various provinces in the north and west of the country. Most of the attacks took the form of ambushes and detonation of IEDs against the Iraqi security forces and Shiite militias moving on the roads. The Iraqi government continues its preventive and counterterrorism measures, but it is unable to significantly reduce the number of attacks carried out by ISIS.
- Noteworthy activity of ISIS’s various provinces around the world during the past week:
- Sinai Province: Operatives of the province attacked an Egyptian police checkpoint in Oyun Musa, some 9 km southeast of Port Tawfiq (at the exit from the Suez Canal). In the ITIC’s assessment, the purpose of the attack was to send a message to the Egyptian regime that ISIS possesses the operational capabilities to carry out attacks in strategically important areas far from the “routine” arena of terrorist attacks in northern Sinai.
- Khorasan Province: An ISIS operative carried out a suicide bombing attack in an open market in the city of Quetta in the Baluchistan region of Pakistan (east of the border with Afghanistan). The attack was aimed against members of the Shiite minority. Around 20 people were killed (civilians and apparently also Pakistani army soldiers).
- West Africa Province: This week, there were battles between ISIS operatives and the Nigerian army (in collaboration with the Cameroonian army) in the state of Borno, in northeastern Nigeria. The Nigerian army carried out an attack against ISIS operatives in the area, killing dozens of operatives (according to the announcement issued by the Nigerian army).
- ISIS continued its media campaign designed to encourage and raise the morale of its operatives following the blow that it had suffered in Syria. The phenomenon of ISIS operatives renewing their pledge of allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is also noteworthy (this week in the Iraq Province, previously in the Sinai Province). In the ITIC’s assessment, the need to renew the pledge of allegiance may reflect the erosion in Al-Baghdadi’s status in the wake of the defeats suffered by ISIS.
The Idlib area
Exchanges of fire continue between the Syrian army and the jihadi rebel organizations
- This week as well, high-intensity exchanges of fire continued between the Syrian army and the jihadi rebel organizations. The jihadi organizations fired artillery mainly at the city of Aleppo. Following are the main incidents:
- On April 12, 2019, the Syrian army attacked rocket launchers and logistics routes of the rebel organizations in the rural area south of Idlib (SANA, April 14, 2019). On April 14, 2019, the Syrian army fired artillery at forces of the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham in the northern Al-Ghab Plain (SANA, April 14, 2019). The same day, the Syrian army fired over forty rockets at forces of the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham which were moving about 30 km north of Hama. Dozens of operatives were killed and wounded (Syrian Now News, April 15, 2019). The Syrian army fired artillery at forces of the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham about 35 km south of Idlib, and about 40 km northwest of Hama (SANA, April 16, 2019).
- The “Awaken the Believers” operations room (affiliated with Al-Qaeda) announced that it had fired artillery at Syrian army positions about 40 km south of Aleppo (Telegram, April 14, 2019). The rebel organizations in the rural area north of Aleppo fired rockets at the Al-Khalidiya neighborhood in northwestern Aleppo. According to the Aleppo police, one of the rockets hit an open market, killing 11 people and wounding 11 others (SANA, April 14, 2019). The “Awaken the Believers” operations room announced that it had carried out a night attack against Syrian army positions about 45 km east of Idlib. About seven Syrian soldiers were either killed or wounded (Telegram, April 15, 2019). The rebel organizations fired a rocket which hit an area close to central Aleppo (SANA, April 15, 2019).
Damage to a building in central Aleppo which was hit by a rocket fired by the rebel organizations (SANA, April 15, 2019)
Russian airstrikes against the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham
- According to Syrian media reports, on the night of April 13-14, 2019, Russian fighter jets carried out airstrikes against positions and weapon depots of the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham in the Idlib rural area. Several operatives were killed and wounded, and several command posts of the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham were destroyed. The airstrikes were carried out after Russian UAVs uncovered preparations for carrying out offensive activity south of Idlib (Muraselon, April 14, 2019). On April 15, 2019, the Iranian Fars News Agency reported that over the past 24 hours, the Russian Air Force had carried out massive airstrikes against the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham in Idlib (Fars, April 15, 2019).
ISIS guerrilla attacks in the Euphrates Valley
- The headquarters of the Palestinian Al-Quds Brigade, a highly capable military force handled by the Syrian regime, announced that ten of its fighters were killed in the Bir Ali area south of Al-Mayadeen in the campaign to mop up the Syrian Desert from ISIS operatives (Al-Quds Brigade’s Facebook page, April 13, 2019). One of the fatalities was Imad Zakariya Jamu, a prominent commander of the Al-Quds Brigade (Deir ez-Zor 24, April 14, 2019).
Imad Zakariya Jamu, killed in an ISIS attack in the desert area south of Al-Mayadeen
(Deir ez-Zor 24, April 13, 2019)
SDF preventive activity
- The civilian council affiliated with the SDF released a pamphlet prohibiting entry of various kinds of ferries to the Euphrates River in the Deir ez-Zor Province. Manufacturing new ferries was also prohibited. In addition, it was noted that all ferries on the (east) bank of the Euphrates would be seized and that anyone breaking the law would be punished (Deir ez-Zor 24, April 14, 2019). In the ITIC’s assessment, these prohibitions were intended to prevent passage of ISIS operatives from the (SDF-controlled) east bank to the west bank (controlled by the Syrian army). This was done in order to make it difficult for ISIS operatives to move from one area to another along the Euphrates River and to try to flee from the east bank to the deserts west of the Euphrates River.
Pamphlet distributed by the SDF civilian council prohibiting the movement of ferries on the Euphrates River in the Deir ez-Zor Province (Deir ez-Zor 24, April 14, 2019)
Main developments in Iraq
ISIS’s terrorist and guerrilla activity
- Following are highlights of ISIS’s terrorist attacks in the past week, based on ISIS’s claims of responsibility (from daily summaries of the ISIS’s Mu’ta news agency, published on Shabakat Shumukh, April 13, 2019):
- Al-Anbar Province: Four IEDs were detonated against two vehicles, one of the Iraqi police and another of the Tribal Mobilization. The explosion took place in the city of Al-Amiriyah, southeast of Fallujah, killing and wounding six policemen and Tribal Mobilization fighters.
- Al-Anbar Province: IEDs were detonated against three Iraqi army observation points 90 km west of Ramadi.
- Diyala Province: An ambush was set up against Tribal Mobilization fighters 19 km northeast of Baqubah. One fighter was killed, and another was wounded.
- Diyala Province: Sniper shooting at Popular Mobilization operatives in the Khanaqin area, about 95 km northeast of Baqubah. Four fighters were wounded.
- Al-Anbar Province: An IED was detonated against a Tribal Mobilization vehicle around the city of Ramadi. Three fighters were killed and wounded.
- Al-Anbar Province: An IED was detonated against an Iraqi army vehicle about 160 km west of Ramadi, killing the vehicle passengers.
- Diyala Province: An IED was detonated against an Iraqi army patrol (20 km northeast of Baqubah), killing one soldier and wounding an officer.
Workshop for making IEDs in the Salah al-Din Province
- ISIS’s Salah al-Din Region in the Iraq Province recently released a photo showing two ISIS operatives inside a structure used as an improvised workshop for making IEDs (Iraq Province – Salah al-Din Region, via Telegram, April 16, 2019).
Counterterrorist and preventive activities by the Iraqi security forces
- Following are the main counterterrorist and preventive activities carried out by the Iraqi security forces:
- Salah al-Din Province: Combat Engineering sappers from the Popular Mobilization’s 14th Brigade located and neutralized dozens of IEDs planted along a route east of Tikrit, about 70 km south of Kirkuk (al-hashed.net, April 14, 2019).
- Nineveh Province: The Iraqi army Intelligence Directorate detained a senior ISIS operative in the Zahra neighborhood in eastern Mosul. During the times of the Caliphate State, this operative was in charge of ISIS’s spoils of war in the sub-district of Qayrawan, about 90 km west of Mosul (Baghdad Post, April 15, 2019).
- Nineveh Province: Popular Mobilization fighters deployed at the entrances to the city of Sinjar, about 100 km west of Mosul, searching for ISIS operatives. Photos released show the Popular Mobilization fighters manning mobile checkpoints and stopping vehicles for inspection (al-hashed.net, April 15, 2019).
Popular Mobilization fighters manning a mobile checkpoint at one of the entrances to the city of Sinjar, west of Mosul (al-hashed.net, April 15, 2019)
Additional actions of the Iraqi security forces and judicial system
- The Iraqi security forces reinstated the night checkpoints throughout Iraq to put an end to the movement of ISIS operatives and the terrorist attacks carried out recently. A senior Iraqi army officer said that checkpoints would be set up every day and be mobile, in accordance with intelligence received (Iraq Press as quoted in Akhbar al-Iraq, April 13, 2019).
- The Iraqi judicial system initiated legal proceedings against 900 Iraqi ISIS operatives who were extradited from Syria to Iraq by the SDF forces, after their investigation materials were received. A court authorized to look into terrorist cases has started to schedule dates for their trials (Al-Sumaria, April 14, 2019).
Sinai Peninsula and Egypt
Egyptian police checkpoint attacked near the Suez Canal
- On April 12, 2019, two ISIS operatives attacked an Egyptian police checkpoint in Oyun Musa, about 30 km north of Ras Sedr, about 9 km southeast of Port Tawfiq (where the entrance and exit of the Suez Canal are located). According to ISIS’s report, clashes between the ISIS operatives and the Egyptian policemen lasted for two hours. Two ISIS operatives were killed in the exchanges of fire, and several Egyptian policemen were killed and wounded (Shabakat Shumukh, April 13, 2019).
The two terrorists killed during the attack against the Egyptian police checkpoint in Oyun Musa. Left: Abu Adnan al-Ansari. Right: Abu Ahmad al-Muhajir (Akhbar al-Muslimeen, April 14, 2019)
Oyun Musa, where ISIS operatives attacked an Egyptian police checkpoint
- The Egyptian Interior Ministry announced that on the morning of April 12, 2019, “terrorist operatives” (i.e., ISIS operatives) attacked a security checkpoint in Oyun Musa. Members of the force manning the checkpoint opened fire at them, and the two sides exchanged fire. One of the attackers had an explosive belt, which was neutralized by the Egyptian force. Searches were carried out in the area in collaboration with the local Bedouin population to capture the rest of the squad members (Al-Masry Al-Youm, April 12, 2019).
- ISIS’s guerrilla activity is carried out mainly in the northern Sinai Peninsula (and sometimes also in central Sinai). Thus, the attack in Oyun Musa, which is close to the Suez Canal, was an unusual event. In the ITIC’s assessment, from ISIS’s perspective, this terrorist attack (during which one of the operatives was supposed to blow himself up) was intended to send the Egyptian regime a message that ISIS is capable of carrying out attacks in areas of strategic importance, beyond the “routine” guerrilla activity carried out by the organization in northern Sinai.
Terrorist attacks in northern Sinai continue
- ISIS’s guerrilla activity in the northern Sinai Peninsula continued this week. Following are highlights of this activity:
- An IED was detonated against a truck near a checkpoint south of Sheikh Zuweid. Several Egyptian soldiers were killed and wounded (from a daily summary of ISIS’s Mu’ta news agency, published in Shabakat Shumukh, April 13, 2019) (Shahed Sinaa Twitter account, April 14, 2019).
- An IED was detonated against an Egyptian army force in southwestern Rafah. Several Egyptian soldiers were killed and wounded (Shahed Sinaa Twitter account, April 15, 2019).
- An IED was detonated against an Egyptian army tank south of Al-Arish. Several Egyptian soldiers were killed and wounded and the tank was destroyed (Shahed Sinaa Twitter account, April 15, 2019).
- An IED was detonated against an Egyptian police APC in the Al-Midan area, about 18 km west of Al-Arish (Shahed Sinaa Twitter account, April 15, 2019). There was no report of casualties.
Counterterrorist activity of the Egyptian security forces
- Egyptian media reported that the security apparatus operating as part of the Egyptian Interior Ministry received intelligence, according to which “terrorist operatives” were gathering in one of the buildings in western Al-Arish and planning to carry out attacks against army and police forces. The Egyptian security forces exchanged fire with the “terrorist operatives.” Eleven terrorist operatives were killed. Rifles, two IEDs and two explosive belts were found in their possession (Masrawi, April 11, 2019).
Attacks carried out by ISIS in its provinces around the world
- ISIS’s Khorasan Province claimed responsibility for carrying out a suicide bombing attack among a gathering of Shiites and Pakistani army soldiers in the city of Quetta (the largest city in the region of Balochistan, some 60 km east of the border with Afghanistan). The attack was carried out by a suicide bomber codenamed Othman Al-Baluchi, who blew himself up with his explosive vest. According to the report by ISIS, 70 Shiites and Pakistani army soldiers were killed and wounded in the attack (Shabakat Shumukh, April 13, 2019).
- Local sources noted that the attack took place in an open market in the city of Quetta. A total of 20 people were killed and dozens of others were wounded. The attack was reportedly directed against an ethnic minority called Hazara, which is predominantly Shiite (ETV Andhra Pradesh, Indian channel, April 14, 2019; BBC, April 14, 2019)
The city of Quetta in the Baluchistan region, near the border with Afghanistan
- ISIS’s Khorasan Province claimed responsibility for two attacks on April 13, 2019:
- Detonation of an IED against a police vehicle in the city of Kabul. After additional policemen arrived at the scene of the incident, ISIS operatives detonated another IED, killing and wounding 11 policemen (Shabakat Shumukh, April 14, 2019).
- An attack on three army positions in the Dibala area in Nangarhar (the border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan). ISIS operatives exchanged fire with the Afghan soldiers for about two hours. Several Afghan army soldiers were killed and wounded (Shabakat Shumukh, April 14, 2019).
Additional attack in the city of Bosaso
- ISIS’s Somalia Province announced that ISIS operatives had detonated an IED against a Somali police vehicle in the city of Bosaso, on the shores of the Gulf of Aden (ISIS’s Somalia Province via Telegram, April 15, 2019).
Right: The city of Bosaso, in northeastern Somalia, on the shores of the Gulf of Aden. Left: The explosion of an IED by ISIS against a Somali police vehicle in the city of Bosaso (ISIS’s Somalia Province via Telegram, April 15, 2019).
- Recently, there has been an increase in attacks by ISIS in northeastern Somalia in the city of Bosaso, which serves as the region’s commercial capital and as a major port in the state of Puntland (an autonomous state in the north of Somalia). The city has a population of around 165,000 residents. The city’s economy was based on education, tourism, food, clothing, logistics, technology and more. The city has several colleges and universities.
Counterterrorism activity by the United States
- According to an announcement by the Africa Command (Africom) of the US Armed Forces, an airstrike was carried out in northeastern Somalia against Abdulhakim Dhuqub, deputy commander of ISIS’s Somalia Province. The attack was carried out in coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia. Dhuqub was in charge of the organization’s day-to-day activity, planning attacks and purchasing (Africom, April 15, 2019). According to a report by a “Somali security source,” several missiles were launched from an aircraft at a vehicle carrying Abdulhakim Dhuqub, ISIS’s deputy commander in Somalia (Reuters, April 14, 2019).
West Africa Province
- Recently, there has been an increase in the number of incidents between the Nigerian army and ISIS in the state of Borno, in northeastern Nigeria (near the border between Nigeria and Cameroon). Following are announcements by ISIS’s West Africa Province regarding these incidents:
- On April 13, 2019, province operatives attacked a checkpoint of the Niger army and a militia affiliated with it. Three members of the force manning the checkpoint were killed and several others were wounded. In addition, weapons, ammunition and army vehicles were seized (Shabakat Shumukh, April 14, 2019).
- On April 13, 2019, province operatives warded off an attack by the Nigerian army in the Tumluma region. During the clashes between the sides, an ISIS suicide bomber blew up a car bomb among Nigerian army soldiers. A total of 23 soldiers were killed and wounded (Shabakat Shumukh, April 14, 2019).
- On the other hand, the Nigerian army announced that its forces and Cameroonian army forces had fought against ISIS operatives in several villages in Borno State. According to the announcement, 27 ISIS operatives were killed (originally: Boko Haram operatives). The Nigerian army did not sustain any casualties. The Nigerian army seized large quantities of weapons, ammunition and equipment (Twitter account of the Nigerian army, April 14, 2019).
Weapons, ammunition and equipment seized from ISIS operatives killed in clashes with the Nigerian army and the Cameroonian army in Borno State
(Twitter account of the Nigerian army, April 14, 2019).
Niger (update on the attack carried out during the wave of revenge attacks)
- ISIS announced that around 20 Niger army soldiers had been killed and wounded by rockets fired by the organization at a Niger army base near the Diffa city airport (West Africa Province, via Telegram, April 9, 2019).
Grad rockets before being fired at the Diffa city airport and the Niger army base
(Shabakat Shumukh, April 14, 2019)
Libya Province (update on the attack carried out during the wave of revenge attacks)
- The Libya Province – Fezzan Region announced that ISIS’s operatives had executed six members of General Haftar’s militia. The six were captured during a raid by the organization’s operatives in the village of Ghadwa, some 65 km south of the city of Sabha in central Libya (Telegram, April 11, 2019).
The battle for hearts and minds
Another video in the campaign designed to encourage ISIS operatives
- Following are some of the topics that arose in the video:
- The video features excerpts from audio recordings of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and of its former spokesman, Abu Mohammad al-Adnani. In the audio recordings, they call for jihad against the “infidels” while presenting ISIS’s operatives as a high-caliber group whose operatives adhere to true Islam. They reiterate the slogan, “The Islamic state remains intact [i.e., it survives].” This is a slogan which ISIS used in the past, and now it has a different meaning following the blow in Syria. In addition, the motif that Allah will eventually endow the organization’s fighters with victory is reiterated.
- The video shows a group of ISIS’s Sinai Province operatives renewing their pledge of allegiance (bay’ah) to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. In the ITIC’s assessment, the need to renew the pledge of allegiance reflects the erosion in Al-Baghdadi’s status in the wake of the defeats suffered by ISIS in the past year. It should be noted that ISIS’s Sinai Province also released a video showing its operatives renewing their pledge of allegiance to the leader (March 25, 2019).
- The video ends with scenes designed to frighten and deter ISIS’s enemies. These include cruel executions in the Diyala region of Iraqi security personnel, mukhtars (village leaders appointed by the Iraqi government) and collaborators with the Iraqi authorities, in order to deter them from aiding the regime (archive.org, April 14, 2019).
Right: ISIS operatives in the video stating that “The Islamic State remains intact.” Left: ISIS operatives in Diyala making IEDs (archive.org, April 14, 2019)
Right: ISIS operatives in the Diyala region renewing their pledge of allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (archive.org, April 14, 2019). Left: ISIS operatives in the Sinai Province renewing their pledge of allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (Shabakat Shumukh, March 25, 2019)
 Due to the Passover holiday, the next issue of Spotlight on Global Jihad will be published on May 1, 2019. We wish all our readers a happy Passover. ↑
 For details about the Al-Quds Brigade, see the ITIC's study from March 19, 2018: “Armed Palestinian forces, militias and organizations handled by the Syrian regime in the Syrian civil war” ↑
 See the ITIC’s Information Bulletin from April 14, 2019: “Wave of orchestrated ISIS terrorist retaliation attacks around the globe: overview and assessment” ↑