Spotlight on Global Jihad (May 2-7, 2019)

Smoke rising in the wake of the airstrikes in the village of Al-Hobait, south of Idlib (Ibaa, May 2, 2019)

Smoke rising in the wake of the airstrikes in the village of Al-Hobait, south of Idlib (Ibaa, May 2, 2019)

Smoke rising in the wake of the airstrikes in the village of Al-Hobait, south of Idlib (Ibaa, May 2, 2019)

Smoke rising in the wake of the airstrikes in the village of Al-Hobait, south of Idlib (Ibaa, May 2, 2019)

Right: Dropping munition on Syrian army positions. Left: Syrian army positions being hit (Telegram, May 3, 2019)

Right: Dropping munition on Syrian army positions. Left: Syrian army positions being hit (Telegram, May 3, 2019)

Right: Dropping munition on Syrian army positions. Left: Syrian army positions being hit (Telegram, May 3, 2019)

Right: Dropping munition on Syrian army positions. Left: Syrian army positions being hit (Telegram, May 3, 2019)

Motorized Popular Mobilization forces taking part in the military operation against ISIS operatives in the Salah al-Din Desert (al-hashed.net, May 5, 2019)

Motorized Popular Mobilization forces taking part in the military operation against ISIS operatives in the Salah al-Din Desert (al-hashed.net, May 5, 2019)

Motorized Popular Mobilization forces taking part in the military operation against ISIS operatives in the Salah al-Din Desert (al-hashed.net, May 5, 2019)

Motorized Popular Mobilization forces taking part in the military operation against ISIS operatives in the Salah al-Din Desert (al-hashed.net, May 5, 2019)

Weapons and ammunition that fell into ISIS’s hands in an attack against the military headquarters of Haftar’s Army in the Sabha area

Weapons and ammunition that fell into ISIS’s hands in an attack against the military headquarters of Haftar’s Army in the Sabha area

Weapons and ammunition that fell into ISIS’s hands in an attack against the military headquarters of Haftar’s Army in the Sabha area

Weapons and ammunition that fell into ISIS’s hands in an attack against the military headquarters of Haftar’s Army in the Sabha area

Main events of the week
  • In the Syrian arena, most of the fighting took place between the jihadi organizations and the Syrian army in the Idlib area. During the past week, the intensity of the incidents in the area increased: The Syrian army attacked bases of the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham in the southern Idlib area. In addition, Russian and Syrian aircraft carried out intensive airstrikes against rebel targets in the rural areas of Hama, Idlib, and Aleppo. The rebel organizations (once again) launched rockets at Russian aircraft at the Hmeymim airbase and attacked Syrian army targets using armed UAVs.
  • In the Iraqi arena, the Iraqi security forces began extensive mopping up operations against ISIS in the deserts of the northwestern part of the country. The mopping up is being carried out by ground forces, with air support. ISIS continued routine guerrilla activity this week, focusing on the detonation of IEDs against vehicles on roads used by Iraqi security forces.
  • The intensive activity of ISIS’s provinces abroad continues: In the northern Sinai Peninsula, an IED was detonated against Egyptian soldiers and snipers fired at them (five soldiers were reportedly killed and nine wounded); In northeastern Nigeria, a Nigerian army base was attacked (ISIS claimed that 10 soldiers had been killed); In the Libya Province (the area of Sabha, the city in the center of the country), a headquarters of Haftar’s Army was attacked (around nine fatalities) and two IEDs were detonated against Afghan policemen in the Nangarhar Province, near the border with Pakistan (ISIS claimed that seven were killed). In the Yemen Province, a suicide bomber attacked an Al-Qaeda position (four dead, according to ISISs announcement).
The Idlib area

During the past week, incidents intensified between the Syrian army and the jihadi rebel organizations in the Idlib area: The Syrian army attacked bases of the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham about 35 km northwest of Hama and fired massive artillery. Russian and Syrian aircraft carried out over 100 airstrikes against targets of the rebel organizations in the rural areas of Hama, Idlib and Aleppo. The jihadi rebel organizations attacked Syrian army targets by armed UAVs, launched (once again) rockets at Russian aircraft at the Hmeymim airbase, launched rockets at a Syrian Air Force airbase and carried out ground attacks.

Ground attacks against the Syrian army in the southern Idlib area
  • On May 6, 2019, the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham announced that clashes were taking place with the “tiger” forces (the forces of Col. Suheil Hassan) about 35 km northwest of Hama. According to the announcement, over 30 “tiger” fighters were killed and dozens were wounded (Ibaa, May 5, 2019). The Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham also announced that the Syrian army was attempting to advance towards the Idlib area from the Latakia rural area (Telegram, May 6, 2019). Official Syrian sources reported briefly that the Syrian army was attacking the rebels in the southern Idlib area (SANA, May 6, 2019).
  • The Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham published an official announcement by one of its commanders, codenamed Abu Khaled Al-Shami, stating that any entry of the Syrian army (referred to as the “Russian occupation”) into an area controlled by the rebels (“our liberated land”) “will be met with iron and fire.” The announcement also specifies the achievements of the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham in its activity against the Syrian army (Ibaa, May 6, 2019).

Abu Khaled al-Shami, commander in the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham, warns the Syrian army (“the Russian occupation”) not to enter the “liberated area” (the rebel-controlled Idlib area) (Ibaa, May 6, 2019)
Abu Khaled al-Shami, commander in the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham, warns the Syrian army (“the Russian occupation”) not to enter the “liberated area”
(the rebel-controlled Idlib area) (Ibaa, May 6, 2019)

Syrian army artillery fire
  • On May 3, 2019, the Syrian army reportedly fired artillery against forces and weapons of “terrorist operatives” 38 km southwest of Idlib. According to the report, several terrorist operatives were killed and several rocket launchers destroyed (SANA, May 4, 2019).
  • On May 4, 2019, the Syrian army fired massive artillery at military equipment and vehicles of the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham in the Idlib area (SANA, May 4, 2019). The Syrian army fired artillery at positions of the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham on the outskirts of a village situated about 40 km northwest of Hama (SANA, May 4, 2019).
Russian and Syrian Air Force airstrikes in the Idlib area
  • Following are reports on airstrikes of the Russian and Syrian air forces in the Idlib area:
    • On May 2, 2019, the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham reported that Syrian and Russian army aircraft had attacked the village of Al-Hobait, about 50 km south of Idlib. An airstrike by the Russian Air Force north of Hama was also reported. Five civilians were reportedly killed and eight others were wounded (Ibaa, May 3, 2019). The Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham reported that in the evening, Russian fighter jets had attacked a village 20 km southwest of Idlib, killing and wounding village residents (Ibaa, May 3, 2019).
    • On May 3, 2019, the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham reported that Russian planes and helicopters bombarded villages and towns in the rural area south of Idlib with hundreds of barrel bombs (Ibaa, May 3, 2019).
    • According to a report by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, since the morning of May 4, 2019, Syrian Air Force fighter jets have carried out 33 airstrikes in the rural areas of Hama and Idlib. The jets took off from Shayrat airbase (28 km southeast of Homs) and from T4 airbase (84 km east of Homs). In some of the airstrikes, high-explosive missiles were used. In addition, Russian Air Force fighter jets carried out 56 airstrikes in the rural areas of Hama, Idlib and Aleppo (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, May 4, 2019).
    • According to a report of a website affiliated with the Syrian army, over 100 airstrikes were carried out by Russian and Syrian aircraft, destroying advanced communications devices and positions for early detection of aircraft movement, set up in elevated points in the Idlib area. In addition, arms and ammunition depots were destroyed, as well as several tunnels used by the rebel organizations (Butulat Al-Jaysh Al-Suri, May 5, 2019).
Grad rockets launched at the Syrian Air Force base of Jab Ramla
  • The Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham announced that it had launched Grad rockets at the Syrian Jab Ramla airbase, situated 28 km west of Hama. According to the statement, fighter jets attacking civilians in the rural areas north of Hama and south of Idlib take off from this airbase (Ibaa, May 5, 2019).

Syrian Air Force base in the area of Jab Ramla (Google Maps)
Syrian Air Force base in the area of Jab Ramla
(Google Maps)

 Launching one of the Grad rockets at the airbase (Ibaa, May 5, 2019)    Turning a rocket launcher of the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham towards the Jab Ramla airbase (Ibaa, May 5, 2019).
Right: Turning a rocket launcher of the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham towards the Jab Ramla airbase (Ibaa, May 5, 2019). Left: Launching one of the Grad rockets at the airbase (Ibaa, May 5, 2019)
The jihadi rebel organizations
  • The Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham and the “Awaken the Believers” operations room (affiliated with Al-Qaeda) announced that they had carried out a series of attacks against Syrian army targets and against the Hmeymim Russian airbase. Following are the highlights of these attacks:
  • Attacking Syrian army positions by armed UAVs: The “Awaken the Believers” operations room attacked Syrian army positions about 20 km south of Al-Shughur. It should be recalled that ISIS previously used armed UAVs.[1]
  • Launching rockets at the Hmeymim Russian airbase:
    • On May 2, 2019, the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham launched over 35 Grad rockets at the Hmeymim airbase, the main Russian base in Syria. A video which was released shows the rockets being launched from a multi-barrel launcher mounted on a truck (Ibaa, May 2, 5, 2019). The rockets were launched six days after the “Awaken the Believers” operations room had launched Grad rockets at the airbase.
    • The Russian Coordination Center reported that the Hmeymim airbase had been attacked twice by the Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham. A total of 36 rockets were launched against it. During the launch, UAVs were also used. In the past month, “militants” tried to attack the Hmeymim airbase twelve times (Sputnik, May 6, 2019).
  • Anti-tank fire: The Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham announced that its anti-tank company had fired an anti-tank missile at a Syrian army tank about 40 km northwest of Hama. According to the announcement, the tank was destroyed (Ibaa, May 4, 2019).

Anti-tank missile launched at a Syrian army tank (Ibaa, May 4, 2019)
Anti-tank missile launched at a Syrian army tank
(Ibaa, May 4, 2019)

  • Rockets launched at a Syrian army camp: The Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham announced that it had launched rockets at a Syrian army camp 37 km northwest of Hama, killing 18 fighters of the “Tiger” militia (of Col. Suheil Hassan) and wounding 23 others (Ibaa, May 5, 2019).
  • Ground attacks: The Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham announced that on May 3, 2019, its operatives had attacked positions of militias supporting the Syrian army 37 km northwest of Hama. According to the announcement, over 50 militiamen were killed and dozens wounded (Ibaa, May 4, 2019). The Headquarters for the Liberation of Al-Sham also announced that its operatives had attacked a surveillance militia force about 40 km northwest of Hama. The militia fighters were killed and wounded (Ibaa, May 4, 2019).
Eastern Syria
ISIS attacks continue against the Syrian army in the deserts of Sukhnah and Palmyra
  • On May 3, 2019, ISIS operatives attacked positions of the Syrian army and the forces supporting it in the desert area of Al-Sha’ara, some 30 km northeast of Palmyra (Deir ez-Zor 24 Twitter account, May 3, 2019).
Intensive guerilla activity by ISIS in the area of Deir ez-Zor and Al-Mayadeen

This week, ISIS continued its guerrilla activity against SDF forces on the east bank of the Euphrates River. ISIS also carried out activity against the Syrian army and the SDF west of the Euphrates. These may have been ISIS operatives who had fled from the eastern bank of the Euphrates or those who had infiltrated into the Euphrates Valley from the area of Al-Sukhnah.

  • Following are the main attacks carried out by ISIS in the area of Deir ez-Zor and Al-Mayadeen:
    • Vehicle ambush: On May 2, 2019, ISIS operatives detonated an IED against vehicles carrying SDF forces in a village on the west bank of the Euphrates River, about 12 km north of Deir ez-Zor. Two SDF soldiers were wounded (www.khfalh.ga, May 3, 2019).
    • Gas pipeline explosion (May 2, 2019): detonation of a gas pipeline that extends from the Al-Jibisa gas field in the Kurdish-controlled area of Al-Shadadi to an area controlled by the Syrian army (13 km west of Deir ez-Zor). Concurrently, ISIS operatives attacked positions of the Syrian army and the forces supporting it 14 km southeast of Al-Mayadeen. Warplanes carried out airstrikes in the area where the clashes took place (ME-NA Media Monitor, a research and media outlet focusing on the Middle East and North Africa, May 3, 2019). To date, no organization has claimed responsibility for the attack, but it was apparently carried out by ISIS.
    • Firing at a tanker: On May 3, 2019, an SDF water tanker was fired at 14 km southeast of Al-Mayadeen (www.khfalh.ga, May 3, 2019). Two SDF fighters were wounded (www.khfalh.ga, May 3, 2019).
    • IED explosion: An IED was detonated north of Deir ez-Zor. A few SDF fighters were wounded (Deir ez-Zor 24 Twitter account, May 4, 2019). To date, no organization has claimed responsibility for the attack, but it was apparently carried out by ISIS.
IEDs detonated in the heart of the Kurdish control area
  • ISIS claimed responsibility for detonating an IED against an SDF vehicle on the road leading from Al-Hasakah to Al-Shadadi (in the heart of the Kurdish control area). According to ISIS’s announcement, four SDF fighters were killed and the vehicle was destroyed (www.khfalh.ga, May 5, 2019).
  • ISIS claimed responsibility for detonating an IED against a vehicle carrying SDF fighters on the road leading from Al-Hol to Al-Qamishli. Five SDF fighters were killed and wounded, and the vehicle was damaged (www.khfalh.ga, May 5, 2019).
Main developments in Iraq
Mopping up campaign carried out by the Iraqi security forces against ISIS in northwestern Iraq
  • On May 5, 2019, Iraqi army Joint Operations Command spokesman Amid (Brig. Gen.) Yahya Rasul announced that the Iraqi army had begun a series of special operations in the deserts of the Nineveh and Al-Anbar provinces, by means of airstrikes and landing forces (by helicopter). The airstrikes were carried out in coordination with the countries of the International Coalition in Iraq (Iraqi News Agency, May 5, 2019).
  • On May 5, 2019, the Iraqi army, with Coalition air support, launched Operation Lions of Al-Jazeera[2] against ISIS operatives in northwestern Iraq (in the Nineveh Province and the northern Al-Anbar Province). So far, eight ISIS operatives have been reported killed and three hiding places have been destroyed (Iraqi News Agency, May 5, 2019). At the same time, it was reported that the Iraqi security forces, with the support of the Popular Mobilization and the Air Force, launched a military campaign against ISIS operatives in the Salah al-Din Desert in northwestern Iraq (al-hashed.net, May 5, 2019).
Iraqi army helicopter landing ground forces (NAS YouTube channel; Iraqi news website, May 5, 2019)   Helicopter fire at an ISIS vehicle during Operation Lions of Al-Jazeera.
Right: Helicopter fire at an ISIS vehicle during Operation Lions of Al-Jazeera. Left: Iraqi army helicopter landing ground forces (NAS YouTube channel; Iraqi news website, May 5, 2019)
The Sinai Peninsula and Egypt
  • On May 1, 2019, ISIS’s Amaq News Agency released a video documenting the detonation of an IED against an Egyptian APC near Al-Arish (www.khfalh.ga, May 1, 2019). No details about the attack were given.
  • According to “local sources in northern Sinai,” five Egyptian soldiers were killed and nine were wounded in attacks apparently carried out by operatives of ISIS’s Sinai Province in northern Sinai. Several incidents were reported: exchanges of fire between “terrorist operatives” and the Egyptian army west of the city of Rafah, which lasted more than an hour; sniper fire that resulted in the killing of an Egyptian soldier on the international highway from the west; detonation of an IED near Al-Arish. Two soldiers were killed and three were wounded (@ShahidSinai Facebook account, May 3, 2019).
ISIS attacks in its provinces and areas around the world

ISIS attacks in its provinces and areas around the world

Sri Lanka

The terrorist attack in Sri Lanka (update)[3]

  • According to media reports from Sri Lanka, the authorities believe that two networks were behind the terrorist attack: the National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ), led by Muhammad Zaharan (the key figure in the terrorist attack); and a network called Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim. The Sri Lankan security forces continue to carry out extensive searches for operatives and collaborators belonging to these organizations. The security forces have arrested many suspects and found weapons, explosives and large quantities of equipment used by the network operatives.
West Africa Province

Nigeria

  • On May 3, 2019, ISIS operatives broke into a base of the Nigerian army and a civilian militia (CJTF[4]) in the town of Magumeri, some 40 km northwest of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State (see map). ISIS operatives arrived in trucks and motorcycles and engaged in clashes lasting about an hour. At the end of the clashes, Nigerian soldiers and civilians fled the scene and the base remained under ISIS’s control for over four hours. ISIS operatives later retreated from the base, after seizing large quantities of weapons and equipment (The Defense Post, an American news website, May 4, 2019).
  • ISIS’s Amaq News Agency issued a claim of responsibility for an attack on a Nigerian army base in which 10 soldiers were killed (www.khfalh.ga, May 3, 2019).

The town of Magumeri, where a Nigerian army base was attacked, northwest of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State (Google Maps)
The town of Magumeri, where a Nigerian army base was attacked, northwest of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State (Google Maps)

he outpost in flames (www.khfalh.ga, May 3, 2019).   ISIS operatives storming the Nigerian army base (www.khfalh.ga, May 3, 2019).
Right: ISIS operatives storming the Nigerian army base (www.khfalh.ga, May 3, 2019). Left: The outpost in flames (www.khfalh.ga, May 3, 2019).
Libya
  • ISIS’s Amaq News Agency announced that 16 Haftar’s Army fighters had been killed and wounded in an attack by ISIS operatives against the military headquarters of Haftar’s Army in the Sabha area. The attackers liberated all of the prisoners who had been imprisoned there, seized weapons and equipment, and left without casualties (Telegram, May 4, 2019). Local sources in Libya confirmed the report, noting that eight or nine Haftar’s Army fighters were killed in the attack (Al-Jazeera, May 4, 2019).
The city of Sabha, in central Libya (Google Maps)       Tank seized by ISIS during the attack (www.khfalh.ga, May 2, 2019)
Right: Tank seized by ISIS during the attack (www.khfalh.ga, May 2, 2019) Left: The city of Sabha, in central Libya (Google Maps)
Afghanistan
  • ISIS’s Khorasan Province claimed responsibility for killing seven Afghan policemen in an explosion of two IEDs in the Nangarhar Province near the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan (www.khfalh.ga, May 3, 2019).
Yemen
  • On May 4, 2019, an ISIS suicide bomber attacked an Al-Qaeda base 117 km southeast of the capital, Sanaa. According to ISIS’s announcement, the terrorist passed through Al-Qaeda’s checkpoints until he reached the site where a meeting of the organization’s operatives was being held. The ISIS operative blew up his explosive vest at the site of the meeting. According to ISIS’s announcement, three Al-Qaeda operatives and the regional leader (Emir) were killed and additional operatives were wounded (www.khfalh.ga, May 5, 2019).

[1]] See the ITIC's Information Bulletin from October 23, 2018: “ISIS’s use of drones in Syria and Iraq and the threat of using them overseas to carry out terrorist attacks
[2] Al-Jazeera is a name used for the desert region in northwestern Iraq, which also penetrates into Syria and Turkey.

[3] For a summary of the terrorist attack, see the ITIC’s Information Bulletin from April 29, 2019: “The Terrorist Attack in Sri Lanka: Overview and Significance.”

[4] Civilian Joint Task Force (CJTF): A militia armed with basic weapons established in Maiduguri (the capital of Borno State) to repel the Boko Haram operatives from the city. The militia has over 26,000 operatives and operates in Borno State and Yuba State in northeastern Nigeria (Wikipedia).