Spotlight on Global Jihad (July 2-8, 2020)

Syrian army weapons, ammunition and equipment seized by ISIS east of Al-Sukhnah during the clashes on July 3-4, 2020 (Telegram, July 6, 2020)

Syrian army weapons, ammunition and equipment seized by ISIS east of Al-Sukhnah during the clashes on July 3-4, 2020 (Telegram, July 6, 2020)

One of the two rockets being fired (Telegram, July 5, 2020)

One of the two rockets being fired (Telegram, July 5, 2020)

Commander of the Baghdad Operations Qais al-Mohammedawi (center) during the operation in the Al-Tarmiyah area against ISIS operatives (Al-Sumaria, July 3, 2020)

Commander of the Baghdad Operations Qais al-Mohammedawi (center) during the operation in the Al-Tarmiyah area against ISIS operatives (Al-Sumaria, July 3, 2020)

Overview
  • The ceasefire is being maintained in the Idlib region of northern Syria, but high-intensity local incidents continue between the warring sides. In the Euphrates Valley, ISIS has continued its intensive activity (mainly in the form of activating IEDs and attempted targeted killings). In the Sukhnah-Palmyra area, the Syrian forces carried out counterterrorism operations against ISIS operatives, with air and artillery support.
  • The Iraq Province continues to be the most active of ISIS’s provinces (mainly in the form of activating IEDs, launching rockets, and targeted killings). This week, an unusual attack (the elimination of an “agent”) was carried out in southern Iraq, an area with a Shiite population where ISIS seldom carries out attacks.
  • In the Sinai Peninsula, ISIS continued its intensive activity against the Egyptian army and the forces supporting it (activating IEDs, attacking a militia that supports the Egyptian army). In addition, the Sinai Province carried out an attack on a position of an Al-Qaeda-affiliated jihadi organization by the name of Jund al-Islam south of Rafah (seven Jund al-Islam operatives were killed). The attack demonstrated that ISIS is determined to prevent the entrenchment of rival jihadi organizations, certainly those affiliated with Al-Qaeda.
  • In ISIS’s other provinces in Africa and Asia, “routine” military activity continues (Nigeria, Congo, Somalia, Pakistan, India and the Philippines).
The Idlib region
Incidents in the Idlib region between the Syrian army and the jihadi organizations

This week as well, high-intensity incidents continued between the Syrian army and the rebel organizations. Most of the incidents consisted of firing in areas south and southwest of Idlib. Following are some of them:

  • On July 7, 2020, snipers of the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham fired at the Syrian forces in Jabal Zawiya, about 20 km south of Idlib. One Syrian soldier was killed and two others were wounded (Ibaa, July 7, 2020).
  • On July 7, 2020, the Syrian forces fired at villages about 40 km southwest of Idlib. Several civilians were wounded (Ibaa, July 7, 2020).
  • On July 7, 2020, the rebel organizations fired rockets at a Syrian force about 20 km east of Idlib. One Syrian soldier was wounded (Khotwa, July 7, 2020).
  • On July 6, 2020, the Syrian forces fired artillery at a village about 40 km south of Idlib (Edlib Media Center – EMC, July 6, 2020).
  • On July 5, 2020, the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham reported that the forces supporting the Syrian army had fired artillery at two villages about 40 km southwest of Idlib (Ibaa, July 5, 2020).
  • On July 4, 2020, the Syrian forces fired artillery at two villages in the Jabal Zawiya area, about 20 km south of Idlib (Idlib Plus, July 4, 2020).
  • On July 3, 2020, the Syrian forces fired artillery at a village about 30 km southwest of Idlib (Edlib Media Center – EMC, July 3, 2020).
  • On July 2, 2020, the Syrian forces fired artillery at several villages 25 km south of Idlib (Idlib Plus, July 2, 2020).
  • On July 1, 2020, the rebel organizations ambushed the Syrian forces while they attempted to advance from a site about 40 km south of Idlib. The Syrian forces sustained casualties (Edlib Media Center – EMC, July 2, 2020).
  • On July 1, 2020, the Syrian forces fired artillery at a village about 30 km southwest of Idlib (Edlib Media Center – EMC, July 1, 2020).
Joint patrols on the M-4 highway continue
  • During the week, the joint Russian and Turkish patrols on the M-4 highway (Aleppo-Latakia) continued uninterrupted. On the morning of July 7, 2020, Turkey and Russia carried out the 20th joint patrol. Prior to carrying out the patrol, the Turkish army deployed its forces along the road to preempt a possible disruption (Enab Baladi, a Syrian news website affiliated with the rebel organizations, July 7, 2020).
Northeastern Syria
The area of Deir ez-Zor, Al-Mayadeen, and Albukamal

Most of the incidents in the area of Deir ez-Zor, Al-Mayadeen and Albukamal consisted of activating IEDs, small arms fire at vehicles on the roads, and targeted killings. Following are details:

  • On July 7, 2020, an SDF vehicle was targeted by machine gun fire about 10 km northeast of Deir ez-Zor. The passengers were wounded (Telegram, July 7, 2020).
  • On July 6, 2020, an SDF vehicle was targeted by machine gun fire about 60 km north of Deir ez-Zor. One fighter was killed and another was wounded (Telegram, July 6, 2020).
  • On July 6, 2020, a commander in one of the forces supporting the Syrian army was shot and killed near Al-Mayadeen (Telegram, July 6, 2020).
  • On July 4, 2020, an SDF fighter was killed about 40 km northeast of Deir ez-Zor. An IED was activated against him or, according to another version, he was shot dead (Telegram, July 4, 2020).
  • On July 2, 2020, an IED was activated against several SDF sappers about 20 km north of Al-Mayadeen. They were wounded (Telegram, July 3, 2020).
  • On July 1, 2020, a commander in the SDF forces was targeted by machine gun fire at his home, about 20 km north of Al-Mayadeen. He was killed (Telegram, July 2, 2020).
  • On July 1, 2020, an IED was activated at an SDF vehicle about 5 km east of Al-Mayadeen. The passengers were killed or wounded (Telegram, July 2, 2020).
  • On July 1, 2020, an IED was activated against two SDF sappers while they were trying to neutralize it about 5 km east of Al-Mayadeen. One was killed and the other was wounded (Telegram, July 2, 2020).
  • On June 30, 2020, an SDF vehicle was targeted by machine gun fire on the road leading to the Al-Omar oil field (about 50 km southeast of Deir ez-Zor). The passengers were killed or wounded (Telegram, July 1, 2020).
The Al-Sukhnah-Palmyra area
ISIS activity
  • On July 4, 2020, Syrian soldiers were targeted by machine gun fire east of Al-Sukhnah, about 60 km northeast of Palmyra. Several soldiers were wounded (Telegram, July 5, 2020).
Counterterrorist activity
  • On July 7, 2020, Syrian forces operating on the basis of intelligence ambushed terrorist operatives (implicitly ISIS) about 35 km north of Palmyra. Three operatives were killed and three others were captured. In addition, weapons, ammunition and military equipment were seized (SANA, July 7, 2020).
 Seized weapons, ammunition, and military equipment (SANA, July 7, 2020).   Right: ISIS operatives who were killed and captured. Left: Seized weapons, ammunition, and military equipment (SANA, July 7, 2020).
Right: ISIS operatives who were killed and captured. Left: Seized weapons, ammunition, and military equipment (SANA, July 7, 2020).
  • On July 3-4, 2020, clashes took place during 48 hours between Syrian forces and ISIS operatives in the Al-Sukhnah Desert, 60 km northeast of Palmyra. They were accompanied by exchanges of artillery fire and Russian airstrikes. A total of 18 Syrian soldiers and operatives of the forces supporting them and 26 ISIS operatives were killed (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, July 4, 2020).
The Iraqi arena
Iraq’s central role in ISIS’s attacks
  • On July 2, 2020, ISIS released an infographic entitled “The Harvest of the Fighters,” summing up its activity in the various provinces between June 25 and July 1, 2020. According to the infographic, a total of 60 attacks were carried out by ISIS around the world, compared to 44 in the preceding week. A total of 34 attacks (about 56%) were carried out in Iraq, most of them (14, about 41%) in the Diyala Province. In addition, eight attacks (about 13%) were carried out in West Africa (mainly Nigeria), seven in Syria (about 11%), three in the Sinai Province, three in Central Africa, two in East Asia (the Philippines), two in Yemen, and one in Somalia.
  • Over 154 people were killed and wounded in the attacks. The largest number of casualties (60) was in Iraq. The other casualties were in the provinces of West Africa (36), Central Africa (25), Syria (12), Somalia (7), Sinai (6), East Asia (i.e., the Philippines) (6), and Yemen (2) (Al-Naba’ weekly, July 2, 2020).
Attacks in Iraq according to ISIS’s claims of responsibility

Diyala Province

  • On July 4, 2020, a Tribal Mobilization fighter was targeted by machine gun fire about 60 km north of Baqubah. He was wounded (Telegram, July 5, 2020).
  • On July 2, 2020, a Tribal Mobilization fighter was targeted by machine gun fire about 60 km north of Baqubah. He was killed (Telegram, July 3, 2020).
  • On July 1, 2020, an IED was activated against a Popular Mobilization fighter about 20 km north of Baqubah. He was killed (Telegram, July 1, 2020).

Salah al-Din Province

  • On July 2, 2020, an IED was activated against a vehicle of the Popular Mobilization intelligence in the city of Baiji, about 90 km southwest of Kirkuk. Two commanders were killed (Telegram, July 2, 2020).
  • On June 30, 2020, two Grad rockets were fired at an Iraqi police station in the city of Baiji (Telegram, July 1, 2020). No casualties were reported.
  • On June 30, 2020, an IED was activated against a Tribal Mobilization commander west of Baiji. The commander and five of his escorts were killed (Telegram, July 1, 2020).

Nineveh Province

  • On July 1, 2020, a hand grenade was thrown at a force of the Iraqi army and the Tribal Mobilization about 50 km southwest of Mosul. Several soldiers and fighters, including an officer, were wounded (Telegram, July 3, 2020).
  • On July 1, 2020, an IED was activated against a Popular Mobilization vehicle about 40 km south of Mosul. Four fighters were killed (Telegram, July 3, 2020).

Al-Anbar Province

  • On July 4, 2020, an IED was activated against a Tribal Mobilization fighter south of Fallujah. He was wounded (Telegram, July 5, 2020).

Wasset Province

  • On July 3, 2020, an Iraqi army “agent” was targeted by machine gun fire in the Al-Kut area, about 150 km southeast of Baghdad. He was killed (Telegram, July 4, 2020). An ISIS attack in southern Iraq, an area predominantly Shiite, is unusual.
Counterterrorist activities by the Iraqi security forces

Al-Anbar Province

  • On July 4, 2020, an Iraqi army intelligence force captured a wanted ISIS operative who operated in the Al-Anbar Province, near the border between Iraq and Syria (Facebook page of the Iraqi Defense Ministry, July 4, 2020).

Kirkuk Province

  • On July 5, 2020, an IED was activated against a vehicle of the Iraqi federal police about 40 km southwest of Kirkuk. The passengers were wounded (Telegram, July 6, 2020).
 The IED being activated (Telegram, July 6, 2020)   The Iraqi police vehicle before the IED was activated.
Right: The Iraqi police vehicle before the IED was activated. Left: The IED being activated (Telegram, July 6, 2020)

Salah al-Din Province

  • On July 3, 2020, the Iraqi army announced that it had located five guesthouses of “terrorist operatives” (i.e., ISIS) during an operation in the Al-Tarmiyah area, about 30 km north of Baghdad. One of those guesthouses was an underground structure which included three rooms. It was used as a headquarters, and the soldiers found IEDs and explosives inside. The IEDs were neutralized and the “terrorist operatives” inside the headquarters were captured (Al-Sumaria, July 3, 2020).
  • On July 4, 2020, a Popular Mobilization force captured a wanted ISIS operative about 80 km southwest of Kirkuk (al-hashed.net, July 4, 2020).
  • On July 2, 2020, teams of the Iraqi Interior Ministry’s Intelligence Directorate captured four wanted ISIS operatives about 40 km northwest of Kirkuk. The operatives admitted in their interrogation that they had provided logistical support to ISIS operatives (Al-Sumaria, July 2, 2020).

Nineveh Province

  • On July 4, 2020, International Coalition aircraft carried out airstrikes to destroy tunnels used by ISIS in the Nineveh Province (Al-Sumaria, July 4, 2020).
  • On July 3, 2020, teams of the Iraqi Interior Ministry’s Intelligence Directorate captured eight wanted ISIS operatives in various areas in the Nineveh Province (Al-Sumaria, July 3, 2020).
The Sinai Peninsula
ISIS activity
  • On July 7, 2020, two IEDs were activated against an Egyptian army armored vehicle near a checkpoint in the town of Sheikh Zuweid. The passengers were killed or wounded (Telegram, July 7, 2020).
  • On July 6, 2020, ISIS operatives attacked militias supporting the Egyptian army about 2 km east of Sheikh Zuweid. Four fighters were killed and another was wounded. In addition, weapons and ammunition were seized (Telegram, July 7, 2020).
  • On July 4, 2020, forces supporting the Egyptian army were targeted by machine gun fire about 2 km southeast of central Sheikh Zuweid. Two fighters were killed and others were wounded. In addition, weapons and ammunition were seized (Telegram, July 5, 2020).
  • On July 4, 2020, an IED was activated against an Egyptian army armored vehicle about 3 km north of Sheikh Zuweid. The passengers were killed or wounded (Telegram, July 5, 2020).
  • On July 4, 2020. ISIS operatives attacked an Egyptian army observation post near a checkpoint in Rafah. Two soldiers were killed and another was wounded (Telegram, July 5, 2020).
  • On July 1, 2020, an IED was activated against an Egyptian army bulldozer west of Rafah. It was damaged (Telegram, July 3, 2020).
  • On July 1, 2020, Egyptian soldiers were targeted by machine gun fire near a checkpoint east of Sheikh Zuweid. Several soldiers were wounded (Telegram, July 3, 2020).
ISIS attack against the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Jund al-Islam
  • This week, the Al-Naba’ weekly reported an attack carried out by ISIS’s Sinai Province operatives against Jund al-Islam, a Salafist-jihadi organization affiliated with Al-Qaeda. Seven Jund al-Islam operatives were killed in the attack (Al-Naba’, as published on Telegram; www.aymennjawad.org, July 2, 2020).

Jund al-Islam is a small jihadi organization affiliated with Al-Qaeda. It is far less capable than ISIS’s Sinai Province. The organization weakened in 2018 following the Egyptian army activity against the Salafist-jihadi organizations in Sinai. Fierce rivalry exists between Jund al-Islam and ISIS’s Sinai Province. In the past, the two jihadi organizations had violent confrontations. According to the Al-Naba’ article, the organization’s commander is codenamed Abu Ayyub and the military commander is codenamed Bika al-Arjani. According to the article, Bika al-Arjani is Jund al-Islam’s representative to local militias collaborating with the Egyptian regime, and he was the one who provided Jund al-Islam with a piece of land south of Rafah, around the village of Al-Barth (where Jund al-Islam operatives were staying when ISIS attacked them).

Emblem of the Jund al-Islam jihadi organization (Wikipedia)
Emblem of the Jund al-Islam jihadi organization
(Wikipedia)
  • According to the Al-Naba’ article, on June 23, 2020, ISIS operatives attacked a Jund al-Islam outpost near the village of Al-Barth, south of Rafah. Seven Jund al-Islam operatives were killed and weapons, ammunition and military equipment were seized. In addition, a Jund al-Islam operative was captured by ISIS. The ISIS operative set fire to the outpost and retreated unscathed.

Right: Weapons seized by ISIS in the attack. Left: A Jund al-Islam operative who was killed in the attack (Al-Naba', as published on Telegram, July 2, 2020)
Right: Weapons seized by ISIS in the attack. Left: A Jund al-Islam operative who was killed in the attack (Al-Naba’, as published on Telegram, July 2, 2020)

(Al-Naba', as published on Telegram, July 2, 2020)
Operatives of ISIS’s Sinai Province returning from the attack against Jund al-Islam operatives (Al-Naba’, as published on Telegram, July 2, 2020)

  • The Al-Naba’ article enumerates the reasons for the attack carried out by ISIS in a clearly apologetic nature, providing an answer to the question of why these two jihadi organizations fight against each other instead of joining forces against the Egyptian army. According to ISIS’s Sinai Province, the Jund al-Islam network collaborates with local militias in Sinai, which support the Egyptian regime against ISIS. The article further states that ISIS’s Sinai Province offered ISIS’s protection to the operatives of the network, who did not pledge allegiance to ISIS’s leader, in return for surrendering their arms. According to ISIS, the operatives turned down the offer and relocated to another area in Sinai (implicitly, the Al-Barth area). There, they received the protection of local militias collaborating with the Egyptian army in its fight against ISIS. The article reiterates that instead of fighting against the “renegades” (i.e., the Egyptian army), Jund al-Islam formed an alliance with them and began fighting against the jihad fighters (i.e., ISIS).
  • The allegation of collaboration between the Jund al-Islam network and the Egyptian regime is intended to give ISIS the legitimacy to destroy the jihadi network which is affiliated with Al-Qaeda. ISIS claims that it had obtained documents proving that the Jund al-Islam network was spying on ISIS operatives in Sinai, and it also attached their photos to the article (see below). According to the article, these documents and the information obtained in the prisoner’s interrogation allegedly indicate that the Jund al-Islam operatives were monitoring ISIS’s wireless communications and had even made lists of the operatives and their codes on the wireless network.

The attack against Jund al-Islam indicates that ISIS’s Sinai Province is taking care to maintain exclusivity in its activity in Sinai against the Egyptian regime. ISIS is therefore determined to prevent the entrenchment of any rival jihadi organization, certainly one affiliated with Al-Qaeda, with which ISIS clashes in other provinces.

“Proof” published by ISIS indicating that Jund al-Islam is collecting information about its operatives. Right: Jund al-Islam’s order to its operatives to monitor the wireless network of the operatives of ISIS’s Sinai Province in the area of Sheikh Zuweid and Rafah. Left: Documents which, according to ISIS, prove that the wireless network of the operatives of ISIS’s Sinai Province is being monitored by Jund al-Islam operatives (Al-Naba’, as published on Telegram, July 2, 2020)
“Proof” published by ISIS indicating that Jund al-Islam is collecting information about its operatives. Right: Jund al-Islam’s order to its operatives to monitor the wireless network of the operatives of ISIS’s Sinai Province in the area of Sheikh Zuweid and Rafah. Left: Documents which, according to ISIS, prove that the wireless network of the operatives of ISIS’s Sinai Province is being monitored by Jund al-Islam operatives (Al-Naba’, as published on Telegram, July 2, 2020)

Documents seized by operatives of ISIS’s Sinai Province. According to ISIS, they indicate collaboration between Jund al-Islam and the militias supporting the Egyptian regime (Al-Naba’, as published on Telegram, July 2, 2020)
Documents seized by operatives of ISIS’s Sinai Province. According to ISIS, they indicate collaboration between Jund al-Islam and the militias supporting the Egyptian regime (Al-Naba’, as published on Telegram, July 2, 2020)

ISIS’s activity around the globe
Africa

Nigeria

  • On July 5, 2020, ISIS operatives ambushed Nigerian soldiers in Borno State, in northeastern Nigeria. Several soldiers were killed or wounded (Telegram, July 6, 2020).
  • On July 5, 2020, ISIS operatives attacked Nigerian army forces about 90 km northeast of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, in northeastern Nigeria. One soldier was killed and others were wounded, while the rest fled (Telegram, July 5, 2020).
  • On July 3, 2020, ISIS operatives attacked a Nigerian army force about 90 km southwest of Maiduguri. During the attack, there was an exchange of fire between ISIS operatives and fighters of a force supporting the Nigerian army. A soldier and a civilian (a “Christian”) were killed and three others were taken prisoner. In addition, weapons and ammunition were seized. Homes of 10 Christians were set on fire (Telegram, July 4, 2020).
  • On July 2, 2020, operatives of ISIS’s West Africa Province attacked a Nigerian army camp 3 km south of the border between Nigeria and Niger, in Borno State. Three soldiers were killed and others were wounded (Telegram, July 3, 2020).

Democratic Republic of the Congo

  • On July 3, 2020, operatives of ISIS’s Central Africa Province fired machine guns at a Congolese army vehicle in Beni, in the northeastern part of the country. An officer and five soldiers were killed (Telegram, July 4, 2020).
  • On July 3, 2020, ISIS operatives attacked a Congolese army compound in the northeastern part of the country. One soldier was killed and others were wounded. In addition, weapons and ammunition were seized (Telegram, July 3, 2020).
  • On July 1, 2020, ISIS operatives attacked a Congolese army compound in the northeastern part of the country. Several soldiers were killed or wounded. In addition, weapons and ammunition were seized (Telegram, July 1, 2020).

Mozambique

  • ISIS’s Al-Naba’ weekly recently published an article threatening the presence of Western countries in Mozambique and their investments in the country’s gas facilities. According to the article, a struggle over control of Mozambique’s resources is currently underway in the gas-rich region of the country (along its northeastern coastline, near the border with Tanzania). Western countries have invested millions of dollars in order to take advantage of local natural resources while the Western-backed local government has oppressed Muslims living in Mozambique.
  • In view of the situation, some of Mozambique’s Muslim residents have begun raising the ISIS flag and are fighting against the local government and the West. According to the article, a growing number of local residents are joining its Islamic State. The US and European countries are trying to involve southern Africa in the fighting against ISIS in Mozambique, but it is an ethnically complicated country that has sent almost no troops to fight against ISIS. Therefore, it cannot benefit the West. On the contrary, it is liable to entangle itself and become another target for ISIS.

The article ends with the claim that the West is in a bind in Mozambique: on the one hand, if additional forces are sent, the local population in Mozambique and the surrounding countries will expand its support for ISIS and “the burning fire of jihad will expand.” On the other hand, if the West trusts the local government to protect its investments in the country, ISIS will be able to respond to this and defeat the local government.

The article, entitled “The Crusaders (i.e., the West) are risking their investments in Mozambique” (Al-Naba’, as published on Telegram, July 2, 2020)
The article, entitled “The Crusaders (i.e., the West) are risking their investments in Mozambique” (Al-Naba’, as published on Telegram, July 2, 2020)

Somalia

  • On July 6, 2020, hand grenades were thrown at a Somalian police checkpoint in the suburbs of Mogadishu. Three policemen were wounded (Telegram, July 7, 2020).
Asia

Afghanistan

Researcher Borhan Osman, who specializes in radical Islam and militant networks operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan, published an article examining why young, middle-class Afghans are joining ISIS’s Khorasan Province[1]. The article is a summary of the findings of a report based on 65 interviews with detainees, former operatives in the province. The interviews were held in the capital Kabul and in other provinces, such as Nangarhar and Kunar. The interviewees included eight jihadi women, most of whom graduated from local universities. Following are the key insights arising from the article.

  • The study is based on interviews with male and female operatives and their families (including operatives’ wives). The interviews were hard to conduct. They were arranged through prominent local clerics who were acceptable to the interviewees. The interviewees spoke about their ideology and family background, and the reasons that motivated them to move from non-violent Salafism to ISIS’s violent activity. It should be noted that Afghan security officials and observers wonder about this phenomenon, which occurred in the wake of the fall of the local communist regime, concurrently with the increase in the power of tribal leaders, forming a new ethnic local elite.
  • The social structure of ISIS’s Khorasan Province in Afghanistan, which is a combination of local and foreign operatives: ISIS’s Khorasan Province was established in 2015, and since then it has carried out some of the deadliest attacks in the capital Kabul. At first, this local branch was considered as an “imported” group, comprising, first and foremost, foreign operatives who had infiltrated into Afghanistan. These operatives were rejected by the Taliban, but were welcomed by local operatives who formed the basis of ISIS’s Khorasan Province.
  • An examination of the overwhelming majority of the incarcerated operatives from the province, which began as a cell in the city of Kabul, revealed that they were members of the younger generation of the local population. The interviewees noted that most of the attacks concentrated on local Afghan targets, i.e., this was not global jihad in the broad sense of the term, but rather mainly local jihad.
  • Prominent characteristics of the recruits of the cell in Kabul, which formed the basis for ISIS’s Khorasan Province: the cell in Kabul, from which ISIS’s Khorasan Province developed, was established by young, local, urban members of the middle-class who underwent a process of Islamic radicalization with local characteristics. This is quite different from the country’s principal insurgent group, the Taliban, which typically relies on young men who are from rural communities, unemployed, educated in madrassas (Islamic schools), mainly Pashtun[2], who are not Salafist-jihadi.
  • Unlike the Taliban, the founders of ISIS’s Khorasan Province operated in urban centers, where they recruited Salafist-jihadi men and women from among the opponents of the Taliban. The recruits were middle-class, many of whom, including foreigners, were students and even lecturers at several local universities and in outlying areas. They underwent a process of radicalization and instilled it in their students. Most of these young people are not members of the Pashtun ethnic group. These recruits formed the basis of the Kabul cell in late 2014, which also included members from other parts of the country. This organization was formally recognized in 2015 by ISIS’s central leadership as ISIS’s Khorasan Province.
  • The reason for the establishment of ISIS’s Khorasan Province: to create an Islamic governmental alternative to the Taliban. There is very little information about how the Kabul cell was created. Insofar as is known, the cell was formed in camps set up by ISIS supporters in the Nangarhar Province. Members of the cell created a network for transferring weapons to its members throughout the country for carrying out attacks against those perceived as their opponents. These include, first and foremost, members of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, who they do not consider to be jihadists and an acceptable governmental alternative, as well as the supporters of Hizb al-Tahrir and the Muslim Brotherhood in the country, who they consider to be “compromisers.”
  • The members of the Kabul cell adopted three clear jihadi principles: “Al-Walaa” (“loyalty” to the members of the cell, which for them is paramount, and prevails over family loyalty), “Al-Baraa” (“renunciation” of those who are not part of their cell); and “Takfir” (accusing Muslims – and not just non-Muslims – of being infidels, for which the penalty is death). The establishment of ISIS’s Khorasan Province meant that the Taliban had no monopoly on the fight for the removal of the US army from Afghanistan and the overthrow of the Afghan government, which is supported by the US and its allies. On the other hand, ISIS’s Khorasan Province failed in its attempt to deprive the Taliban of its control over various districts in the country.
  • The main reasons why operatives joined ISIS’s Khorasan Province:
    • A key reason for joining was their frustration with the status quo and their strong desire to realize ISIS’s ideological vision. ISIS’s interpretation of Islam is uncompromising and violent, and stems from ISIS’s version of the inception of Islam. Other factors that attracted them were: egalitarianism between ISIS operatives, unlike the Taliban, where the power is in the hands of the organization’s senior officials; the prospect of marriage to other jihadists, creating a sense of solidarity among the members of the organization; and the possibility of living in “the territory of the Islamic Caliphate” after taking part in its establishment.
    • At an even more fundamental level, however, the roots of the Salafist-jihadi surge lie in the breakdown of traditional society, a process that began in the 1970s in rural Afghanistan and has intensified as sweeping urbanization has created a generation of rootless urban settlers. In addition, ISIS’s local and foreign operatives are also interested in ousting the Shiites (who constitute 20% of Afghanistan’s population) and the Sufi mystics, because they perceive them as supporters of the Afghan government who harm the country’s Sunni character.
  • Summary and Recommendations: The article is part of a comprehensive study that proposes examining an alternative form of government in Afghanistan. The article states that there is no escaping a dialogue on the issue of the processes that led to the creation of Islamic radicalization in Afghanistan. This requires a long-term research outlook and the use of innovative research methods, and not just an examination of kill-and-capture operations. The study recommends promoting dialogue among young people in Afghan society, which will give those among them who are attracted to ISIS’s Khorasan Province an opportunity to become acquainted with other opinions and to adopt a more moderate Islamic worldview. Such a concept would also lead to the creation of a more democratic, Western and tolerant process that would lead to broader pluralism in Kabul and throughout the country; It will also allow local, conservative religious elements who are not jihadist, but are strongly opposed to the existing regime, to be part of the government rather than being alienated and oppressed by it.

Pakistan

  • On July 6, 2020, an IED was activated against a Pakistani intelligence operative in northern Pakistan, near the border with Afghanistan (about 180 km northwest of Islamabad). He was wounded (Telegram, July 6, 2020).

India

  • On July 3, 2020, an operative of ISIS’s India Province fired a machine gun at Indian security forces in the area of Srinagar in Kashmir, northern India. One member of the Indian forces was killed and other security personnel were wounded (Telegram, July 3, 2020).

The Philippines

  • On July 2, 2020, operatives of ISIS’s East Asia Province threw hand grenades at a roadblock of the Philippine army and the forces supporting it on the island of Mindanao in the south of the country. One fighter was killed and two others were wounded (Telegram, July 4, 2020).
Counterterrorism and preventive activity
Seizure in Italy of 14 tons of amphetamines, manufactured by ISIS in Syria[3]
  • According to a recent report, Italian police seized 14 tons of amphetamines in three shipping containers at the Port of Salerno, about 50 km south of Naples, in southern Italy. The shipment includes about 85 million Captagon pills, the street name for a drug whose chemical base is fenethylline (a synthetic stimulant from the amphetamine family). It is estimated that the amphetamines were produced by ISIS in Syria. According to the Italian Customs Police, the street value of these pills is about one billion euros. According to the investigators, the profits from trading in these pills are used for funding ISIS’s terrorist activity. The Italian Customs Police noted that ISIS’s military operatives use Captagon pills to suppress fear and pain (AP, July 1, 2020).

[1] Borhan Osman, Bourgeois Jihad: Why Young, Middle-Class Afghans Join the Islamic State. United States Institute of Peace, USIP (Washington, DC), No. 22, 1 June 2020, pp. 1-32: https://www.usip.org/publications/2020/06/bourgeois-jihad-why-young-middle-class-afghans-join-islamic-state
[2] The Pashtun constitute 42% of Afghanistan’s population and are considered the country’s elite.

[3] Amphetamine (speed) – a drug that stimulates the nervous system and suppresses the appetite. Amphetamines enhance concentration and attention and reduce symptoms of restlessness in patients with attention deficit disorder. Amphetamines are also used to treat narcolepsy (a chronic sleep disorder characterized by overwhelming daytime drowsiness and sudden attacks of sleep). Use of amphetamines increases alertness, improves concentration, increases sexual desire and is liable to cause excessive self-confidence. An overdose is dangerous and is liable to cause psychosis, coma and even death as a result of a stroke or heart attack. Amphetamines are highly addictive drugs with a very difficult withdrawal process involving fatigue, depression and increased appetite (source: the Israeli Maccabi Health Services).