Main events of the past week
- Afghanistan: ISIS continued its attacks against the Taliban forces and government institutions. The climax of its activity this week was the detonation of an explosive belt by a suicide bomber at the entrance to the passport office in Kabul.
- Syria: The downtrend in ISIS’s activity continued. Most of ISIS’s activity this week focused on the Deir ez-Zor-Al-Mayadeen region, targeting the Kurdish SDF forces. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights noted that during 2021, its staffers documented at least 342 attacks carried out by ISIS against the Kurdish forces in Syria (SDF) in the provinces of Deir ez-Zor, Al-Raqqah, Al-Hasakah and Aleppo. In counterterrorism operations in the Al-Hasakah region, the SDF forces, supported by forces of the Global Coalition against ISIS, detained a senior ISIS operative who commanded numerous attacks carried out by ISIS in northeastern Syria. In the Idlib region, there were exchanges of fire between jihadist elements and the Syrian army in the Jabal Turkman region, in the western part of the rebel enclave. The Russian Air Force carried out airstrikes against rebel targets in the northern periphery.
- Iraq: This week, there was a significant decrease in ISIS’s activity. Most of the provinces were relatively quiet, apart from the Salah al-Din Province, where two attacks were carried out. At the same time, the Iraqi security forces carried out intense activity in order to locate ISIS operatives and epicenters throughout the country.
- Africa: Most of ISIS’s activity this week focused on Nigeria, Congo and Mozambique. The counterterrorism operations proved successful. More than 100 ISIS operatives were killed in an airstrike carried out by Nigerian Air Force planes against three camps of ISIS’s West Africa Province in the northwest of the country. A total of 22 terrorist operatives were killed in a joint operation by the Nigerian and Nigerien armies in the Lake Chad region.
- The battle for hearts and minds: This week’s lead article in ISIS’s Al-Naba’ weekly was devoted to a review of the legacy of ISIS’s leaders since ISIS’s inception, and their role as leaders of the Islamic nation in implementing Sharia and carrying out jihad against the “infidels.”
- This week, ISIS’s activity in Afghanistan was aimed primarily at Taliban members and government institutions. The presidential election campaign, which began on December 18, 2021, is a new target for ISIS. The following are the main incidents (mostly according to ISIS’s claims of responsibility on Telegram):
- On December 27, 2021, an IED was activated against a Taliban vehicle in Kabul. The passengers on board were killed or wounded.
- On December 26, 2021, a Taliban “spy” was targeted by gunfire in the Jarmakari region of the Kunduz Province, in northeastern Afghanistan.
- On December 25, 2021, a “spy” of the previous Afghan government was targeted by gunfire in the Achin region of Nangarhar.
- On December 23, 2021, a suicide bomber codenamed Talha the Pakistani detonated his explosive belt at the entrance to the passport office in Kabul. Several Taliban members were killed or wounded (Telegram, December 25, 2021). A Taliban spokesman said the terrorist had been identified and fired at and that he had been killed. Several people were reportedly wounded in the explosion, but there were no fatalities (AFP and Reuters, December 23, 2021).
- On December 21, 2021, shots were fired at a vehicle carrying a senior Taliban member, the director of agriculture in the Ghani Khel region in Nangarhar. The director and three of his security guards were killed. ISIS operatives seized three rifles.
- On December 21, 2021, a “sorcerer” was targeted by gunfire in Farah, in western Afghanistan, not far from the border with Iran.
The Syrian arena
Syrian governorates (freeworldmaps.net)
The Idlib enclave
- This week, there were exchanges of artillery fire between jihadi elements and the Syrian army in Jabal Turkman, in the western part of the rebel enclave in Idlib (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, December 23, 2021). The Russian Air Force attacked rebel targets in the northern rural area of Idlib (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, December 25, 2021).
Syrian Observatory for Human Rights sums up ISIS’s attacks in 2021
- According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, during 2021, it documented at least 342 ISIS attacks against the Kurdish forces in Syria (SDF) in the provinces of Deir ez-Zor, Al-Raqqah, Al-Hasakah and Aleppo. At least 228 people were killed in those attacks, 93 of them civilians, including nine women and five children, and 135 fighters of the SDF and local forces supporting them (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, December 26, 2021).
Deir ez-Zor and Al-Mayadeen
- This week, there were several attacks against the SDF forces in the region. In response, the Russian Air Force attacked ISIS targets in the desert region west of Deir ez-Zor and in the Al-Sukhnah region (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, December 22, 25, 2021). Following are the details:
- On December 27, 2021, ISIS carried out two attacks against the SDF forces: The first, firing at a vehicle of an SDF commander in the Diban region, about 3 km east of Al-Mayadeen. The commander and one of his escorts were killed, and another escort was wounded. The second, firing RPG rockets at a building used by the SDF in Al-Tiyanah, in the Diban region. Two SDF fighters were wounded and the building was damaged (Telegram, December 27, 2021).
- On December 26, 2021, an SDF vehicle was attacked in the Al-Sour region, about 50 km northwest of Deir ez-Zor. The vehicle was put out of commission and the passengers on board were killed or wounded (Telegram, December 28, 2021).
- On December 25, 2021, ISIS operatives abducted an SDF fighter in Baghouz, in southeastern Syria. He was interrogated and then executed (Telegram, December 27, 2021).
- The Kurdish forces (SDF), supported by the US-led Global Coalition against ISIS, detained Mohammad Abd al-Awwad, AKA Rashid, who was a senior ISIS operative (emir) and commanded many ISIS attacks in northeastern Syria. Those attacks included the attempt to break into the Al-Hasakah Prison about a month ago. Abd al-Awwad joined the ranks of ISIS in 2013 after leaving the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front. He took part in massacres perpetrated by ISIS in northeastern Syria and fought in Damascus, Deir ez-Zor and Al-Raqqah (SDF Press, December 25, 2021).
Mohammad Abd al-Awwad (SDF Press, December 25, 2021)
The Iraqi arena
Provinces of Iraq (Wikipedia)
Attacks by province
- This week, there was a decrease in ISIS’s attacks in all of its provinces. At the same time, the Iraqi army and the militias supporting it continued their counterterrorism measures. Following are details about the various attacks.
- On December 27, 2021, an Iraqi police post was set on fire in the southern Daquq area, in south Kirkuk. It was destroyed.
Salah al-Din Province
- On December 27, 2021, an Iraqi emergency police post was attacked on the Baiji-Haditha highway. Five policemen were killed and four others were wounded.
- On December 23, 2021, ISIS fired at a Popular Mobilization force north of Alam, about 60 km north of Samarra. Two Popular Mobilization fighters were killed and four others were wounded. ISIS seized a medium machine gun, a rifle and other equipment.
Weapons and equipment seized by ISIS (Telegram, December 23, 2021)
- The Iraqi security forces launched a large-scale operation in the western Al-Anbar Province, western Salah al-Din Province, and in the Nineveh Province, to locate ISIS operatives (Khaliyat al-I’lam al-Amni Facebook page, December 26, 2021).
- The Iraqi security forces detained five ISIS operatives. Four of them reportedly supported ISIS logistically while the fifth treated ISIS’s wounded operatives (Khaliyat al-I’lam al-Amni Facebook page, December 23, 2021).
- The Iraqi Air Force destroyed 14 ISIS targets in the southern part of the Hamrin Mountains, in the northern part of the province (Khaliyat al-I’lam al-Amni Facebook page, December 26, 2021).
- The Sinai Tribal Union recently carried out a large-scale attack against zones of activity of ISIS’s Sinai Province in Al-Arjaa, south of Rafah. Two ISIS operatives were killed. The operatives destroyed a Tribal Union vehicle. Unlike in the past, only a few days later, ISIS issued a claim of responsibility. This may indicate difficulties of communication between ISIS operatives on the ground and ISIS’s center in Syria and Iraq, necessary to coordinate such statements. The Al-Arjaa region, which is adjacent to Sheikh Zuweid, has recently been one of the main epicenters of ISIS’s Sinai Province (Mada Misr, December 23, 2021).
Summary of ISIS’s activity in the various provinces
Weekly summary of ISIS’s activity
- An infographic published by ISIS summing up its activity around the world in the period between December 16 and December 22, 2021, indicates that in this period, ISIS carried out 38 attacks in its various provinces in Asia and Africa, compared to 39 in the previous week. The largest number of attacks was carried out by ISIS’s Iraq Province (12). Attacks carried out in the other provinces: Khorasan (i.e., Afghanistan) (9); West Africa (8); Central Africa (5); Syria (2); Sinai (1); and Somalia (1). A total of 111 people were killed and wounded in the attacks, compared to 152 in the previous week. The largest number of casualties was in the West Africa Province (40). The other casualties were in the following provinces: Iraq (26); Khorasan (25); Central Africa (9); Syria (5); Sinai (3); and Somalia (3) (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, December 23, 2021).
The infographic as it appeared in Al-Naba’ weekly
(Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, December 23, 2021)
ISIS attacks in recent months (according to ISIS data)
Summary of ISIS activity in the past six years
- The Jihad Analytics Research Institute noted that in the past six years, ISIS carried out 26,549 attacks in 48 different countries around the globe. About 50% of the attacks were carried out in Iraq and about 25% in Syria. A total of 52 attacks were carried out in Western countries. A total of 102,823 people were killed or wounded in ISIS attacks around the globe. In 65% of the attacks, ISIS operatives used IEDs (@Jihad_Analytics Twitter account, December 24, 2021).
ISIS activity in Africa
- On December 27, 2021, a Nigerian army checkpoint was targeted by gunfire in Monguno, about 60 km from the Nigeria-Cameroon border in northeastern Nigeria. The soldiers manning the checkpoint fled the scene.
- On December 26, 2021, ISIS operatives attacked a Nigerian army camp in the village of Yuba Yadi in northeastern Nigeria. At least 10 soldiers were killed in the exchange of fire and several others were wounded. ISIS operatives seized ATVs and weapons. ISIS operatives also set fire to three Nigerian army armored vehicles. The next day, mortar shells were fired at the base. According to ISIS, definite hits were identified.
- On December 23, 2021, a Nigerian army post was targeted by gunfire in Musa, in eastern Nigeria. The soldiers manning the post fled and ISIS operatives set it on fire, seizing weapons and ammunition.
- On December 19, 2021, buildings belonging to militias loyal to the Nigerian army were targeted by gunfire in Kilangar, in Borno State, in northeastern Nigeria. At least 20 militia fighters were killed. Several buildings and three vehicles were set on fire.
Right: One of the buildings set on fire by ISIS operatives. Left: One of the vehicles set on fire (Telegram, December 25, 2021).
- Nigerian military sources reported the killing of over 100 ISIS operatives in an airstrike carried out by the Nigerian Air Force against three camps of ISIS’s West Africa Province in the northwest of the country (AFP, December 23, 2021). A total of 22 terrorist operatives (operatives of ISIS’s West Africa Province and Boko Haram operatives operating in the region) were killed in a three-week joint operation by the Nigerian and Nigerien armies in the Lake Chad region. Six soldiers were killed in the operation (The Guardian, December 25, 2021).
- On December 21, 2021, a Cameroonian army camp was targeted by gunfire in the Mora region in northwestern Cameroon, near the border with Nigeria. Several soldiers were wounded.
- On December 21, 2021, fighters of a militia operating as part of the African Coalition were targeted by gunfire in the Macomia region of Cabo Delgado, in northeastern Mozambique. Two fighters were killed and several others wounded. ISIS operatives seized weapons and ammunition.
Weapons and ammunition seized by ISIS operatives (Telegram, December 21, 2021)
- According to ISIS’s Al-Naba’ weekly, ISIS operatives killed one Mozambican soldier and wounded several others in four separate attacks carried out between December 12 and 18, 2021, in the Niassa Province of northwestern Mozambique. In addition, dozens of homes of Christians were set on fire (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, December 23, 2021).
- The African Coalition forces, operating in the Chai area, the Macomia region, destroyed two ISIS camps and killed 14 operatives. During the operation, there was an exchange of fire between the fighters of the coalition forces and ISIS operatives, resulting in the death of a fighter of the Mozambican Special Forces (Sky News, December 24, 2021). According to ISIS’s Al-Naba’ weekly, ISIS operatives managed to thwart a landing operation of the Mozambican army near Chai and there was an exchange of fire, during which the soldiers were forced to flee (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, December 23, 2021).
- On December 10, 2021, ISIS operatives attacked a Christian village on the Tanzania-Mozambique border, killing four Christian residents and setting fire to residents’ homes. Subsequently, ISIS operatives exchanged fire with Tanzanian patrol forces that arrived in the village. The forces that withdrew from the scene left three vehicles, which ISIS set on fire. The incident was reported in Al-Naba’ weekly on December 23, 2021. The late reporting of the incidents could indicate that ISIS’s central media network is having difficulty obtaining continuous information from the Central Africa Province.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Over the past few days, ISIS-affiliated ADF operatives killed 12 civilians in the Ituri region, about 50 km west of the Congo-Uganda border. According to a local source, additional ADF operatives have arrived in the area and local residents have begun to leave. On the other hand, seven ADF operatives and 31 operatives of the CODECO militia (the rebel militia of the Lendu ethnic group) operating in the region were killed in a Congolese army operation (AFP, December 27, 2021).
- On December 26, 2021, at least five people were killed and 13 others were wounded in a suicide bombing near a restaurant in the Beni region, about 50 km west of the Congo-Uganda border. According to official sources, the security guards prevented him from entering the restaurant and therefore the attack took place outside it. The attack was attributed to the ISIS-affiliated ADF (AFP, December 26, 2021). ISIS has not officially claimed responsibility for the attack.
- On December 25, 2021, a Congolese army convoy was ambushed in Manjabi, in the Beni region. Two soldiers were killed. ISIS operatives set fire to four vehicles and fled the scene (Telegram, December 26, 2021).
- On December 25, 2021, a Congolese army camp was attacked in Nazinga, in the Beni region. Two soldiers were killed and ISIS operatives seized weapons and ammunition.
- Militants ambushed and killed 41 fighters of a militia supporting the Burkina Faso government in the Loroum Province, not far from the Burkina Faso-Mali border. It should be noted that Islamic elements affiliated with Al-Qaeda and ISIS are operating in the region and that this is a severe blow to the militia. The incident occurred about a month after 53 people were killed in an attack against a gendarmerie post. Authorities in Burkina Faso have declared two days of national mourning (The Guardian, December 26, 2021).
- According to an announcement by the Saudi Interior Ministry, on December 27, 2021, Muhammad al-Saddam was executed. He was an ISIS operative and a citizen of Yemen who was charged with operating in the ranks of ISIS and planning to blow himself up with an explosive belt in a crowded public state facility. An explosive belt and photos of the place where he had planned to carry out the attack were found in his possession (Al-Arabiya, NDTV, December 27, 2021).
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) encourages Palestinian terrorist attacks
- AQAP released a six-minute video entitled “Shahed” (witness). The video condemns the normalization of relations with Israel by “renegade [Arab and Muslim] regimes” and calls on the Palestinians to increase their activity during 2022 and carry out lone-wolf attacks such as stabbing and vehicular attacks (Telegram, December 25, 2021).
- A force of Lebanon’s internal security apparatus detained an ISIS operative codenamed Al-Wahshi al-Inghimasi (the savage who sacrifices his life) who was hiding in the Ein Al-Hilweh refugee camp, near Sidon. The operative was reportedly detained in Sidon after being tricked into going there (Russia al-Yom, December 23, 2021).
- In three separate incidents between December 24 and December 26, 2021, Indian security forces killed five operatives of ISIS, Al-Qaeda and the Lashkar al-Tayyiba organization in Kashmir (www.hindustantimes.com, December 26, 2021).
- The Turkish counterterrorism unit arrested nine foreigners in Istanbul suspected of having ties with ISIS. Documents and electronic devices were found in their possession (Anatolia News Agency, December 25, 2021).
- The Greek counterterrorism unit arrested a 40-year-old man for criminal activity and smuggling foreigners into and out of Greece. It was later revealed that he is an ISIS operative who worked on behalf of ISIS in Greece. Stolen and forged documents and passports and many phones were found in the suspect’s possession. The suspect is married to a woman in Iraq and to another woman in the Netherlands (Anatolia News Agency, December 24, 2021).
- The Canadian authorities released a report on Muhammad Ali, 31, a Canadian citizen whose parents emigrated from Pakistan, who left Canada in 2014, moved to Syria, joined ISIS and served as a sniper. The report also notes that he used social media to promote ISIS’s propaganda and recruit operatives into its ranks. Ali was taken prisoner by Kurdish fighters in 2018 and is still detained in Syria, and is one of several Canadian citizens incarcerated in prisons and camps in northeastern Syria. If he returns to Canada, he is expected to stand trial and will probably receive a lengthy prison sentence (globalnews.ca, December 23, 2021).
- A 34-year-old man was arrested in Sydney on charges of membership in a terrorist group and collecting and preparing documents liable to lead to a terrorist attack. According to police, he published ISIS propaganda materials, including instructions for making explosives, and he probably also intended to carry out an attack. In 2020, he was arrested and remained in custody for six months on charges of disseminating material on social media. He refused to participate in a de-radicalization program and after his release he continued to disseminate materials on behalf of ISIS (The Daily Mail, 7NEWS, December 24, 2021).
The battle for hearts and minds
- The headline of the lead article in ISIS’s Al-Naba’ weekly was “The Imams who Direct [the Islamic Nation] to the Straight and Narrow.” The article reviews the legacy of ISIS’s leaders since ISIS’s inception, and their role as leaders of the Islamic nation in implementing Sharia and carrying out jihad against the “infidels.” The article describes Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi as the man who laid the foundations of the Islamic State; Abu Omar al-Baghdadi as the man who established institutions that formed the basis of the state; and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as the man who actually founded it and served as “the captain of the ship of jihad.” ISIS’s current leader, Abu Ibrahim al-Qurashi, is described as having been given the job of continuing the “real” path and jihad (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, December 23, 2021).
The article as it appeared in Al-Naba’ weekly
(Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, December 23, 2021)
 Mostly according to ISIS’s claims of responsibility posted on Telegram ↑
 Mainly according to ISIS's claims of responsibility posted on Telegram