Spotlight on Global Jihad (April 8 – 14, 2021)

פעיל דאעש יורה ממקלע כבד הנישא על רכב שטח בעיירה דמסק (טלגרם, 13 באפריל 2021).

פעיל דאעש יורה ממקלע כבד הנישא על רכב שטח בעיירה דמסק (טלגרם, 13 באפריל 2021).

פעילי דאעש פושטים על העיירה דמסק

פעילי דאעש פושטים על העיירה דמסק

ISIS operatives setting fire to a building.

ISIS operatives setting fire to a building.

ISIS operative commandeering a Nigerian army vehicle (Telegram, April 13, 2021)

ISIS operative commandeering a Nigerian army vehicle (Telegram, April 13, 2021)

Main events of the past week
  • ISIS’s activity in Africa was noteworthy this week as well. In Nigeria, ISIS operatives attacked, for the third time in the past month, the town of Damasak, near the border between Nigeria and Niger. After attacking a military base in the town and setting fire to the soldiers’ barracks, they spread throughout the town and set fire to government buildings and buildings belonging to international organizations. In another incident, ISIS operatives attacked a Christian village close to the border between Nigeria and Cameroon. They killed and abducted inhabitants, and set fire to churches, houses and government buildings. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, ISIS attacked military camps and a truck convoy of Christian residents. In Chad, 16 soldiers were killed when ISIS ambushed several boats carrying soldiers along the coast of Lake Chad.
  • Syria witnessed a decrease in the scope of ISIS’s activity this week. ISIS operatives released 46 people abducted in the Aqirbat region. Police officers and several civilians suspected of collaboration with the Syrian regime are still held by ISIS. Russian fighter jets attacked ISIS targets in the area. In the Deir ez-Zor-Al-Mayadeen region, ISIS operatives continued their attacks against SDF fighters and forces supporting them and against their headquarters.
  • Iraq also witnessed a decrease in the scope of ISIS’s activity this week. A noteworthy incident was an attack against an Iraqi army camp north of Baghdad. The Iraqi security forces continued their counterterrorism activity.
  • In Afghanistan, ISIS continued its activity mainly against security personnel and government officials. According to an “official Afghan source,” the Afghan security forces detained Gholam Nasser, codenamed Al-Khorasani, who was a senior ISIS commander in Kabul. The Taliban are threatening the United States not to postpone the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan.
The Syrian arena
Syrian governorates (freeworldmaps.net)
Syrian governorates (freeworldmaps.net)
The Deir ez-Zor-Al-Mayadeen region
  • ISIS operatives continued to carry out attacks in the region, mainly against SDF forces and government officials affiliated with them. An attack in Shahil, about 10 km north of Al-Mayadeen, was noteworthy. ISIS operatives fired rockets at an SDF headquarters. The building sustained damage. Subsequently, ISIS ambushed the rescue forces arriving on the scene and activated an IED against them. Four SDF fighters, including a commander, were killed, three others were wounded, and a vehicle was destroyed. Following are other noteworthy attacks based on ISIS’s claims of responsibility:
    • On April 12, 2021, an SDF intelligence operative was targeted by gunfire in Diban, about 3 km east of Al-Mayadeen.
    • On April 8, 2021, an IED was activated close to the house of the mayor of Al-Harmushiyah, about 20 km northwest of Deir ez-Zor. The house was damaged.
    • On April 8, 2021, an SDF fighter was targeted by gunfire in the Mahaimida region, about 10 km north of Deir ez-Zor.
    • On April 5, 2021, a hand grenade was thrown at the SDF headquarters in the Abu Hamam region, about 25 km southeast of Al-Mayadeen. Two fighters were wounded.
The desert region (Al-Badia)
  • On April 7, 2021, ISIS operatives released 46 people abducted by them the day before in the Aqirbat region, about 40 km east of Salamiyah. A total of 13 police officers and several Syrian civilians suspected of collaboration with the Syrian regime are still held by ISIS (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, April 11, 2021).
Al-Hasakah region
  • An IED was activated against an SDF truck carrying logistical equipment south of Al-Hasakah, near the Syrian-Iraqi border. An SDF fighter was killed and two others were wounded.
Russian airstrikes
  • Russian fighter jets attacked ISIS targets in the Al-Sukhnah region, about 120 km southwest of Deir ez-Zor (www.hawarnews.com, April 11, 2021).
The Iraqi arena
Provinces of Iraq (Wikipedia)
Provinces of Iraq (Wikipedia)
  • ISIS continued to carry out attacks mainly against the Iraqi security forces and the militias supporting them. This week, there was a decrease in the number of attacks. Most of them were carried out in the Kirkuk region. Following are noteworthy attacks based on ISIS’s claims of responsibility.
Diyala Province
  • On April 7, 2021, an IED was activated against a Shiite civilian (“polytheist objector”) in the Miqdadiya region, about 40 km northeast of Baqubah. He was wounded.
Kirkuk Province
  • On April 11, 2021, a Tribal Mobilization outpost was targeted by gunfire in southern Daquq, in the southern part of Kirkuk. One fighter was killed and another was wounded.
  • On April 10, 2021, an Iraqi police outpost was targeted by gunfire in southern Daquq. One policeman was killed.
  • On April 5, 2021, an Iraqi police outpost was targeted by gunfire in the Riyad region, southwest of Kirkuk. One policeman was killed.
Salah al-Din Province
  • On April 12, 2021, an Iraqi army intelligence operative was targeted by gunfire in Um al-Zuhur, near Tarmiyah, about 30 km north of Baghdad. Several days before (April 9, 2021), an Iraqi army camp in the area was targeted by rocket and machine gun fire. A lieutenant colonel was wounded.
Nineveh Province
  • On April 10, 2021, an IED was activated against an Iraqi army vehicle south of Mosul. The passengers on board were wounded.

Counterterrorism measures in Iraq

International support
  • Popular Mobilization Forces Chairman Falih al-Fayyadh met in Moscow with Nikolai Patrushev, the Secretary of the Security Council of Russia. They discussed regional security issues and future cooperation on security issues between Iraq and Russia. During his visit, Al-Fayyadh also met with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov. They discussed possible cooperation in the fight against terrorism (Al-Sumaria, April 7, 2021).
  • Iraqi National Security Advisor Qassem al-A’raji said that the United States had undertaken to withdraw a considerable part of its forces from Iraq. According to him, both parties agreed that the Iraqi security forces would be able to fight against ISIS. He noted that the parties agreed that there would be no foreign bases in Iraq (Al-Sumaria, April 7, 2021). In this context, Qais al-Khazali, the secretary-general of Asaib Ahl al-Haqq (pro-Iranian Shiite militias operating in Iraq), released a statement, according to which Iraq does not need foreign forces to defend its territory, and the US presence in Iraq constitutes “occupation and a blatant violation of Iraqi sovereignty” (Qais al-Khazali’s Twitter account, April 7, 2021).
Detention of ISIS operatives arriving from the Al-Hawl camp
  • Last week, there were two incidents of Iraqi security forces detaining ISIS operatives who arrived in Iraq from the Al-Hawl camp in Syria (a detention facility of families of ISIS operatives where about 60,000 people are held):
    • On April 8, 2021, the security forces in Mosul detained three ISIS operatives who arrived in Iraq from the Al-Hawl camp. The man who smuggled them into Iraq was detained as well (Al-Sumaria, April 8, 2021).
    • Kurdish security sources reported that the Iraqi Counterterrorism Unit had detained five ISIS operatives from Iraq who infiltrated into the Kurdish zone of northeastern Iraq. The five arrived from the Al-Hawl camp in Syria. In their interrogation, they admitted planning to carry out attacks which included the detonation of IEDs and targeted killings in Erbil, the capital city of the Kurdish region (VOA, April 12, 2021).
Diyala Province
  • Five ISIS operatives were killed in the Hamrin region, about 50 km northwest of Baqubah, in a military operation carried out by the Iraqi security forces. They also destroyed ISIS infrastructure (Al-Sumaria, April 11, 2021).
Nineveh Province
  • According to Iraqi Armed Forces Spokesman Yahya Rasoul, 60 ISIS operatives were killed in airstrikes carried out on March 25, 2021, in the Makhmur region, about 70 km southeast of Mosul. The airstrikes were based on information provided by ground forces of the counterterrorism unit (Al-Hurra, April 7, 2021). An article in ISIS’s Al-Naba’ weekly describes the reports of the Iraqi security forces as “lies.” According to ISIS, its operatives were not harmed in the attacks, and the main outcome of the operation was “increasing the economic damage to the Iraqi government due to the heavy expenses of fighting against ISIS” (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, April 8, 2021).
Al-Naba' weekly, Telegram, April 8, 2021
Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, April 8, 2021
Al-Anbar Province
  • The Iraqi army located a vehicle near Hit, in western Iraq, which was apparently used by ISIS. The soldiers found 24 rockets inside the vehicle (Al-Sumaria, April 8, 2021).
The Sinai Peninsula
  • According to a report in Al-Araby al-Jadeed, in recent weeks, concurrently with the withdrawal of ISIS from the northern Sinai Peninsula, there was considerable activity by operatives of ISIS’s Sinai Province in central Sinai. Tribal sources and eyewitnesses reported that ISIS operatives had recently deployed in the Bir al-Abd region and further south, near Jabal Maghara. Due to the mountainous, rocky terrain it is difficult to locate ISIS operatives hiding there or attack them from the air. There population in the area is sparse, and almost no military presence can be of help. A source in the tribal groups supporting the Egyptian army in the region said that due to the increase in the number of ISIS operatives in the area, the Sinai Tribal Union, in coordination with the Egyptian army forces, had sent reinforcements to the tribal groups. It was further reported that the tribal groups had informed the Egyptian authorities of ISIS’s buildup in central Sinai and the fact that the operatives are close to strategic facilities and important military outposts in the region, including an airport (Al-Araby al-Jadeed, April 10, 2021).
Documenting routine activity in the Sinai Province
  • ISIS’s Sinai Province released a series of photos showing the operatives engaging in various daily activities. Operatives are seen carrying weapons, raising ISIS’s flag, gathering in a building, and following ISIS’s propaganda messages on their cellphones (Telegram, April 11, 2021).
 ISIS operatives in Sinai following ISIS’s propaganda messages on a cellphone (Telegram, April 11, 2021)  ISIS operatives in Sinai carrying weapons and raising their flag.
Right: ISIS operatives in Sinai carrying weapons and raising their flag. Left: ISIS operatives in Sinai following ISIS’s propaganda messages on a cellphone (Telegram, April 11, 2021)
Summary of ISIS’s activity around the globe
  • This week, ISIS posted an infographic summing up its activity around the globe between March 31 and April 6, 2021. According to the infographic, during this period, ISIS operatives carried out 34 attacks in the various provinces in Asia and Africa, compared to 37 in the previous week. The largest number of attacks were carried out in Syria (11). Attacks carried out in ISIS’s other provinces: West Africa (6); Central Africa (4); Iraq (4); Somalia (3); Khorasan, i.e. Afghanistan (3); and Sinai (3) (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, April 8, 2021). A total of 102 people were killed and wounded in those attacks, compared to 114 in the previous week. The largest number of casualties was in West Africa (28). The other casualties were in the following provinces: Syria (23); Somalia (21); Khorasan, i.e., Afghanistan (14); Iraq (7); Sinai (6); and Central Africa (3) (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, April 8, 2021
The infographic in ISIS’s Al-Naba' weekly (Al-Naba', Telegram, April 8, 2021)
The infographic in ISIS’s Al-Naba’ weekly (Al-Naba’, Telegram, April 8, 2021)

Africa

Nigeria[1]
  • The most noteworthy incident this week was the attack on the town of Damasak near the border between Nigeria and Niger, in Borno State, northeastern Nigeria, for the third time in the last month. First, ISIS operatives attacked a Nigerian army base. At least two soldiers were killed and several others were wounded. The operatives set fire to the soldiers’ barracks. They then spread throughout the town and set fire to eight government buildings and also other buildings, belonging to international organizations (Telegram, April 11, 2021). Several days after the incident, ISIS’s Amaq News Agency released a video documenting the attack on the town (Telegram, April 13, 2021).
  • In another incident, ISIS operatives attacked a Christian village near the border between Nigeria and Cameroon. They killed two residents and abducted three others. They also set fire to three churches, government buildings, houses, and government vehicles. They seized 20 motorcycles (Telegram, April 9, 2021).
Buildings and vehicles set on fire by ISIS operatives in the village (Telegram, April 11, 2021)    Buildings and vehicles set on fire by ISIS operatives in the village (Telegram, April 11, 2021)
Buildings and vehicles set on fire by ISIS operatives in the village (Telegram, April 11, 2021)
  • On April 12, 2021, an IED was activated against a Nigerian government telecommunications tower in Mandaragirau, about 150 km southwest of Maiduguri in the northeast of the country. The tower was destroyed.
The telecommunications tower bombed by ISIS (Telegram, April 13, 2021)
The telecommunications tower bombed by ISIS (Telegram, April 13, 2021)
  • On April 9, 2021, a Nigerian army patrol was ambushed in the Gajiram region, about 120 km southeast of the tri-border area of Nigeria, Chad, and Cameroon. Several soldiers were killed or wounded in the exchange of fire.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • On April 10, 2021, a Congolese army camp was targeted by gunfire in the Rwenzori region in eastern Congo, not far from the border with Uganda. The soldiers fled, and the ISIS operatives seized weapons and ammunition.
  • On April 9, 2021, two trucks of Christian residents were targeted by gunfire southeast of Beni, about 50 km west of the Congo-Uganda border. Five passengers on board were killed and the trucks were set on fire. On the same day, a Congolese soldier was shot and killed in the area.
  • On April 7, 2021, two Congolese army camps in the Beni region were attacked. There were exchanges of fire, during which the soldiers fled. ISIS operatives seized weapons and ammunition. On the same day, a soldier was shot in the area. The ISIS operatives seized his rifle.
Chad
  • On April 8, 2021, ISIS ambushed several Chadian army boats carrying soldiers along the shores of Lake Chad. A total of 16 soldiers were killed in the exchange of fire, and two others were wounded. This is not the first time that ISIS operatives attack military boats in Lake Chad.
Somalia
  • On April 10, 2021, an IED was activated against a Somali police ATV in the capital Mogadishu. The passengers were killed or wounded, and the vehicle was put out of commission.

Asia

Afghanistan
  • This week as well, ISIS operated against Afghan security personnel, mainly in the Jalalabad region. Most of the attacks consisted of activating IEDs. According to ISIS’s claims of responsibility, on April 10, 2021, a security operative was targeted by gunfire and was killed. On the same day, an IED was activated against a vehicle of a Special Unit fighter in the Afghanistan army. He was killed and the vehicle was destroyed.
Senior ISIS commander detained in Kabul
  • According to an “Afghan official source,” the Afghan security forces detained Gholam Nasser, AKA Al-Khorasani, who was a senior ISIS commander in Kabul. Many terror operations were attributed to him. He was described by the authorities as “Daeshi Taliban,” which may indicate that in the past, he was active in the ranks of the Taliban. However, the Taliban denied any connection with the detainee (Khaama Press, April 10, 2021).
Gholam Nasser, who was detained by the Afghan security forces (Khaama Press, April 10, 2021)
Gholam Nasser, who was detained by the Afghan security forces (Khaama Press, April 10, 2021)
Withdrawal of US forces
  • According to a report published on Voice of Jihad, the organ of the Taliban movement, the Taliban categorically rejected the American proposal to postpone the withdrawal of the US forces from the country in six months. The Taliban called on the US administration to implement the withdrawal on May 1, 2021, as stipulated in the reconciliation agreement. They even threatened that if the US did not do so, the attacks against the US forces in Afghanistan would be resumed (www.longwarjournal.org, April 12, 2021). This is yet another Taliban signal to the Americans to leave the country. Last week, a video was disseminated on social media showing a Taliban operative who had been trained in a camp named after Abu Bakr al-Siddiq (one of the Taliban camps in Afghanistan), making threats in English against the US forces in Afghanistan (Telegram, April 7, 2021).
Turkey
  • As part of the preventive activity of Turkey’s counterterrorism unit in the Adana Province in southern Turkey, at least seven people suspected of ISIS activity were detained. The detainees are Iraqi and Syrian nationals (Anatolia News Agency, April 13, 2021).
The battle for hearts and minds
Call on the operatives to adhere to Islam and be patient
  •  This week, the main article in ISIS’s Al-Naba’ weekly was dedicated to the importance of adhering to the “truth” (i.e., Islam, according to ISIS’s ideological interpretation) and exercising “patience” (al-sabr) in Islam. The author calls on ISIS’s operatives and supporters to be patient and adhere to the “truth” (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, April 8, 2021). The subject of the article may be seen an indication of the difficulties that ISIS is facing in some of its activity zones, especially in Syria and Iraq, where intensive counterterrorism activities have recently taken place on the part of local security forces, causing casualties among ISIS, mainly among its senior operatives.
The main article of ISIS’s Al-Naba' weekly: Calling on operatives and supporters to exercise patience and adhere to ISIS’s ideology (Al-Naba' weekly, Telegram, April 8, 2021)
The main article of ISIS’s Al-Naba’ weekly: Calling on operatives and supporters to exercise patience and adhere to ISIS’s ideology (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, April 8, 2021)

[1] According to ISIS’s claims of responsibility