Spotlight on Global Jihad (December 8-14, 2021)

Nigerian army armored vehicle that was destroyed.

Nigerian army armored vehicle that was destroyed.

ISIS operatives on one of the vehicles (Telegram, December 14, 2021)

ISIS operatives on one of the vehicles (Telegram, December 14, 2021)

Main events of the past week
  • Afghanistan: ISIS continued its activity in Afghanistan this week. The activity targeted mainly Taliban forces and the Shiite population. One noteworthy incident was the activation of IEDs against three buses at different sites in Kabul, killing and wounding many Shiite residents. In an interview with US media, the commander of the US Central Command noted that in his estimation, the number of Al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan increased somewhat after the pullback of US forces. He noted that the United States expected the Taliban to adopt a strong position against Al-Qaeda.
  • Syria: The downtrend in ISIS’s activity continued. Most of the attacks this week targeted the Kurdish SDF forces in the Deir ez-Zor-Al-Mayadeen region. Seven Syrian soldiers and militiamen were killed in an attack against a post in the Al-Masrab Desert, northwest of Deir ez-Zor. In the Al-Hasakah Province, SDF forces handed over more than 100 ISIS detainees to the Iraqi government.
  • Iraq: ISIS concentrated its activity against the Iraqi security forces, mainly in the Kirkuk and Diyala provinces. According to an announcement by the US Department of Defense, the US army has completed its military missions in Iraq and its activities will now focus on assisting Iraq in training and in an advisory capacity. The number of US soldiers who will remain in Iraq to carry out these missions is 2,500.
  • Africa: In Nigeria, ISIS’s activity centered on an army base in the Malam Fatori region, on the Nigeria-Niger border. After several attacks against the base, a car bomb was detonated near a military convoy. Dozens of soldiers were killed and wounded and many vehicles were destroyed. ISIS also carried out an attack this week in Adamawa State, in eastern Nigerian. In Mozambique, ISIS expanded its activity to the Niassa Province. This is after its activity to date has been concentrated in the Cabo Delgado Province.
  • Pakistan: This week, ISIS operatives targeted Pakistani police in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area. This activity is further evidence that ISIS’s Khorasan Province is expanding its activity into Pakistan.
  • The battle for hearts and minds: The lead article in this week’s issue of Al-Naba’ weekly was devoted to ISIS operatives’ revenge on infidels and those who deviate from the path of Islam. By way of example, the article describes ISIS’s activity against the Yazidis in Syria and the Shiites in Iraq. The author even quotes passages from the Quran which, in his opinion, legitimize this behavior on ISIS’s part.
Afghanistan
ISIS operatives turned themselves in to the Taliban government
  • A senior Taliban intelligence official in the Nangarhar Province said that 80 ISIS operatives had turned themselves in to the Taliban government in eastern Afghanistan. According to him, an arrangement was made with the operatives, mediated by a local tribal chief. According to this arrangement, in exchange for their release they undertook not to engage in antigovernment activity (Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, December 12, 2021).
ISIS activity
  • This week, ISIS continued its activity in Afghanistan, targeting mainly Taliban members and Shiite residents. The following are the main incidents (mostly according to ISIS’s claims of responsibility on Telegram):
    • On December 13, 2021, an IED was activated against a Taliban vehicle in Kabul. The vehicle was destroyed and the passengers were killed or wounded. The next day, another IED was activated against a Taliban vehicle in Kabul. Eight of the passengers on board were killed or wounded.
    • On December 12, 2021, a Taliban camp was targeted by gunfire in the Suki region of the Kunar Province. An aid force that arrived on the scene was also targeted by gunfire. Several Taliban members were killed or wounded.
    • On December 10, 2021, in three separate incidents, IEDs were activated against buses in Kabul. According to ISIS, dozens of Shiites were killed or wounded and the buses were destroyed (Telegram, December 10, 2021). The Taliban government’s Interior Ministry has confirmed that two IEDs had exploded in Kabul, one of them inside a minibus. Two people were reportedly killed and four others wounded in the incidents (www.didpress.com, December 11, 2021).
    • On December 9, 2021, a vehicle carrying Taliban members was targeted by gunfire in Jalalabad. Four Taliban members were killed.
    • On December 8, 2021, an IED was activated against a Taliban patrol in Kabul. The passengers on board were killed or wounded.
    • On December 7, 2021, there was an attempt on the life of a Taliban member in Kabul. He was killed and his gun was seized.
    • On December 7, 2021, a Taliban member was targeted by gunfire in the Lugar Province, near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. He was wounded. ISIS operatives seized his weapon.
According to US estimates, the number of Al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan has recently risen slightly
  • General Frank McKenzie, Commander of the United States Central Command, noted in an interview that in his estimation, the number of Al-Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan has increased slightly since the Taliban takeover of the country. According to him, the US pullback from Afghanistan makes it difficult to monitor the activity of Al-Qaeda and other extremist groups in the country. McKenzie said, “What we would like to see from the Taliban would be a strong position against Al-Qaeda.” On the Iraq issue, McKenzie noted that he estimates that Iran-backed militias in Iraq will intensify their attacks against US and Iraqi soldiers in order to put pressure on US forces to leave the country (THE HILL, December 9, 2021).
 The Syrian arena
Syrian governorates (freeworldmaps.net)
Syrian governorates (freeworldmaps.net)
The Idlib region
  • Exchanges of artillery fire continued between the Syrian army and the rebel forces in the rebel enclave in Idlib (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, December 8-14, 2021).
The desert region (Al-Badia)
  • On December 11, 2021, ISIS operatives attacked a position of the Syrian army and the Liwa al-Quds militia (consisting of Palestinian fighters collaborating with the Assad regime) in the Al-Masrab Desert, northwest of Deir ez-Zor. In the exchange of fire, seven soldiers and militia fighters were killed, and 17 others were wounded (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, December 12, 2021).
  • Russian fighter jets continued to attack ISIS targets in the desert regions of Al-Raqqah and Deir ez-Zor (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, December 14, 2021).
Deir ez-Zor and Al-Mayadeen
  • On December 13, 2021, ISIS attacked several SDF sites south of Al-Mayadeen, including a headquarters, two roadblocks, and several supervision posts. Several people were reportedly wounded in the attacks and damage was caused (Telegram, December 14, 2021).
  • On December 11, 2021, a collaborator with the SDF forces was abducted in Al-Baghouz, about 5 km southeast of Albukamal. He was interrogated and then executed (Telegram, December 11, 2021).
  • On December 10, 2021, a Kurdish forces headquarters was targeted by gunfire in Al-Basira, about 15 km north of Al-Mayadeen. Several fighters were wounded and damage was caused (Telegram, December 11, 2021).
Counterterrorism activities
  • The Pentagon announced that US and SDF forces had carried out two operations on the night of December 11-12, 2021, in the Al-Basira region. Four ISIS operatives were reportedly killed, one of them wearing an explosive vest (Al-Hurra, December 13, 2021).
Al-Hasakah region
  • The Kurdish forces handed over more than a hundred ISIS detainees to the Iraqi government. The detained operatives had been held in the Al-Hasakah Province in northeastern Syria. They had been transferred through the Syrian-Iraqi border after their transfer had been coordinated with the Iraqi government (SDF Press, December 11, 2021).
The Iraqi arena
Provinces of Iraq (Wikipedia)
Provinces of Iraq (Wikipedia)
  • The commander of the Global Coalition against ISIS announced (December 9, 2021) that it had completed the transition of its forces in Iraq to a non-combat mission before the year’s end, as agreed. The new mission is to advise, assist, and enable the Iraqi forces. The process has been completed in accordance with the agreement between Iraq and the US which was announced during the fourth round of strategic dialogue between the countries (July 26, 2021). According to the agreement, US combat forces are scheduled to leave the army bases in Iraq by December 31, 2021 (Operation Inherent Resolve website, December 9, 2021). Iraq’s National Security Adviser Qasim al-Araji pointed out that this was a change in the definition of the role of the American forces in Iraq rather than the end of their presence in the country.
ISIS’s achievements in the fighting against the Peshmerga forces
  • ISIS’s Al-Naba’ weekly published an infographic summing up ISIS’s activity against the Kurdish Peshmerga forces between November 27 and December 5, 2021. According to the infographic, in the period in question ISIS carried out four attacks against the Peshmerga forces, two in the Diyala Province, one in the Kirkuk Province, and one in the Dijla Province (northwest of Kirkuk). A total of 23 people were killed in the attacks, and 14 were wounded. Four of the casualties were officers. The attacks targeted Peshmerga positions and forces. In two incidents, forces arriving on the scene to provide assistance were attacked as well (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, December 9, 2021).

Infographic summing up ISIS’s activity against the Peshmerga (Al-Naba' weekly, Telegram, December 9, 2021)
Infographic summing up ISIS’s activity against the Peshmerga
(Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, December 9, 2021)

Attacks by province[1]

Diyala Province
  • On December 11, 2021, an IED was activated against a foot patrol of the oil facilities security police in the southern Kanaan region, about 15 km southeast of Baqubah. An officer and three policemen escorting him were wounded. Two days before, a similar attack was carried out and two vehicles were put out of commission.
  • On December 9, 2021, an Iraqi army post was targeted by gunfire in the Al-Azim region, about 60 km north of Baqubah. Four soldiers were killed and one was wounded.
Kirkuk Province
  • On December 13, 2021, an Iraqi police headquarters was attacked in the Rashad region, about 40 km southwest of Kirkuk. One policeman was killed.
  • On December 9, 2021, an IED was activated against an Iraqi police patrol in the Daquq region, in southern Kirkuk. A police officer and a policeman were wounded.
  • On December 8, 2021, two Iraqi army posts were attacked near Lahiban, about 40 km northwest of Kirkuk. Four soldiers were killed and another was wounded. Forces arriving on the scene to provide assistance were targeted by gunfire. In the exchange of fire, two vehicles were put out of commission and their passengers were killed or wounded. According to ISIS, the incident took place while Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kazimi was visiting the area (Telegram, December 9, 2021).
  • On December 7, 2021, an Iraqi police vehicle was targeted by gunfire in the Riyad region, about 50 km southwest of Kirkuk. Policemen on board the vehicle fled. ISIS operatives seized equipment which was inside the vehicle and set it on fire. A force arriving on the scene to provide assistance was ambushed. Two of the force fighters were killed in the exchange of fire.
  • On December 7, 2021, an Iraqi army patrol was ambushed by ISIS in the Dabas region, about 40 km northwest of Kirkuk. Two soldiers were killed and two others were wounded (Telegram, December 8, 2021).
  • On December 7, 2021, two IEDs were activated against Iraqi police patrols in the Daquq region, in southern Kirkuk. A total of 12 policemen were killed and wounded, and one of the patrol vehicles was put out of commission (Telegram, December 8, 2021).
Salah al-Din Province
  • On December 12, 2021, an IED was activated against the vehicle of a joint patrol of the Iraqi army and the Popular Mobilization forces in Fatouh, in the Suleiman Bek region, about 75 km southeast of Kirkuk. The vehicle was damaged.
Al-Anbar Province
  • On December 13, 2021, an IED was activated against an Iraqi army vehicle in the desert region of Kabisah, about 60 km northwest of Ramadi. The passengers on board were killed.

Counterterrorism measures

Kirkuk Province
  • On December 12, 2021, the Iraqi security forces launched a campaign against ISIS operatives in the Hamrin Mountains, southwest of Kirkuk. The ground operation started after several days of airstrikes carried out by the Iraqi Air Force in the area (Sky News, December 12, 2021).
Nineveh Province
  • On December 12, 2021, a Popular Mobilization force located about 200 bombs hidden by ISIS in the Nineveh Province (Khaliyat al-I’lam al-Amni Facebook page, December 12, 2021).
Bombs located in the Nineveh Province (Khaliyat al-I'lam al-Amni Facebook page, December 12, 2021)
Bombs located in the Nineveh Province
(Khaliyat al-I’lam al-Amni Facebook page, December 12, 2021)
Al-Anbar Province
  • On December 9, 2021, Iraqi Military Intelligence detained an ISIS operative who had been in charge of logistical assistance to the region (Khaliyat al-I’lam al-Amni Facebook page, December 9, 2021).
Baghdad Province
  • On December 9, 2021, the Iraqi army arrested three wanted ISIS operatives, acting on intelligence (Khaliyat al-I’lam al-Amni Facebook page, December 9, 2021).
Sinai Peninsula
  • On December 14, 2021, ISIS operatives attacked a village in the vicinity of Sheikh Zuweid. Egyptian army forces managed to repel the attack. One soldier was killed (Facebook page of the Sinai Tribal Union, December 14, 2021).
  • On December 10, 2021, ISIS operatives set fire to several heavy-duty vehicles in Rafah, which were used for Egyptian army security projects (Telegram, December 12, 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 2 and December 8, 2021, indicates that in this period, ISIS carried out 45 attacks in its various provinces in Asia and Africa, compared to 35 in the previous week. The largest number of attacks was carried out in Iraq (16). Attacks carried out in the other provinces: West Africa (12); Khorasan (i.e., Afghanistan) (9); Central Africa (6); Syria (1); and Sinai (1). A total of 110 people were killed and wounded in the attacks, compared to 65 in the previous week. The largest number of casualties was in the Iraq Province (53). The other casualties were in the following provinces: Khorasan (22); West Africa (17); Central Africa (13); and Sinai (5) (Al-Naba’, Telegram, December 9, 2021).
The infographic summing up ISIS’s attacks around the globe (Telegram, December 9, 2021)
The infographic summing up ISIS’s attacks around the globe
(Telegram, December 9, 2021)
ISIS attacks in recent months (according to ISIS data)

ISIS attacks in recent months (according to ISIS data)

ISIS activity in Africa[2]

Nigeria
  • This week, ISIS operatives concentrated their efforts against a Nigerian army base in Malam Fatori, in the Nigeria-Niger border region in the northeast of the country. Several attacks were carried out against the base during the week. On December 8, 2021, an IED was activated against a bulldozer, destroying it. Then three mortar shells were fired at the base. The day before, IEDs were activated against three armored vehicles. According to ISIS, two vehicles were put out of commission, and definite hits were identified.
  •   The climax of the events was on December 11, 2021, in a heavy exchange of fire between ISIS operatives and a Nigerian army force attempting to advance towards ISIS’s posts in the region. During the exchange of fire, a car bomb driven by a suicide bomber, an ISIS operative codenamed Othman al-Ansari, exploded against a Nigerian army convoy of around 60 vehicles. Dozens of Nigerian soldiers were killed or wounded and many vehicles were destroyed.
ISIS operatives on one of the vehicles (Telegram, December 14, 2021)   Nigerian army armored vehicle that was destroyed.
Right: Nigerian army armored vehicle that was destroyed. Left: ISIS operatives on one of the vehicles (Telegram, December 14, 2021)
  • Additional incidents:
    • On December 14, 2021, Nigerian army positions were attacked in the village of Sabongari in eastern Nigeria. Ten soldiers were killed and several others were wounded in the exchange of fire. ISIS operatives took over the village and subsequently left the scene. This is one of the first attacks by ISIS operatives in Adamawa State, in eastern Nigeria. Up to now, most of the attacks have been in Borno State, in northeastern Nigeria.
    • On December 13, 2021, the village of Dibro in Borno State was attacked. A fighter in a militia loyal to the Nigerian army was killed. ISIS operatives set fire to a church and the homes of several Christian residents (Telegram, December 14, 2021).
    • On December 7, 2021, a Nigerian army position was targeted by gunfire in Madagali, in northern Adamawa State, on the Nigeria-Cameroon border. Three soldiers were killed and another soldier was wounded (Telegram, December 10, 2021).
    • On December 7, 2021, a Nigerian army camp was targeted by gunfire in northeastern Nigeria. One soldier was killed. ISIS operatives seized two vehicles and a motorcycle (Telegram, December 9, 2021).
Mozambique
  • ISIS operatives attacked the region where two Christian villages are located in the Niassa Province, in northwestern Mozambique. It should be noted that ISIS’s attacks in the province have recently increased. This could indicate that ISIS is expanding its activity in the country beyond the Cabo Delgado Province.
  • Below are details of the incidents (according to ISIS’s reports):
  • On December 9, 2021, the village of Simini was attacked. There was an exchange of fire with a Mozambican army patrol. One soldier was killed. ISIS operatives set fire to military vehicles and homes of Christian residents.
  • On December 8, 2021, the village of Lishengui was attacked. In the attack, the homes of 10 village residents were set on fire (Telegram, December 13, 2021).

Asia

Pakistan
  • Operatives of ISIS’s Khorasan Province ambushed and attacked a police car in the Mir Ali region in northern Waziristan, on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Three policemen were killed in the attack. Another police officer was wounded (Telegram, December 13, 2021). On the same day, a Pakistani police foot patrol was targeted by gunfire in Rawalpindi, south of Islamabad. One policemen was killed and two others were wounded (Telegram, December 14, 2021).
The United States
Senior official in ISIS’s media network has been convicted
  • Mohammed Khalifa, a 38-year-old Canadian citizen from Saudi Arabia, was convicted of activity in the ranks of ISIS by a US court. Khalifa, AKA Abu Ridwan al-Qanadi and Abu Muthanna al-Muhajir, traveled to Syria in November 2013 and was apprehended by SDF forces in 2019. During his stay in Syria, he held a number of prominent positions in ISIS. Due to his knowledge of English, he was recruited to ISIS’s media foundation and served, inter alia, as an announcer in English-language videos produced by the media foundation. The videos that he produced also documented him executing hostages, including a Syrian army soldier. He also managed media networks that assisted in the translation, production and dissemination of ISIS propaganda material designed for Western audiences. Since January 2019, he fought in the ranks of ISIS in Syria, mainly against the SDF forces. He was apprehended by the forces in January 2019. He was later extradited to the US authorities and put on trial (US Department of Justice website, December 10, 2021).
The battle for hearts and minds
  • The lead article in this week’s issue of Al-Naba’ weekly was devoted to ISIS operatives’ revenge on infidels and those who deviate from the path of Islam. The author even quotes passages from the Quran which ostensibly legitimize this behavior on ISIS’s part. According to the author, the Yazidi minority, whose sons were killed and whose daughters were turned into handmaids by ISIS, had provoked the Muslims by killing a woman who had converted to Islam and desecrating her body. According to him, after the incident, ISIS promised to punish the Yazidis and did indeed do so seven years later, when it massacred the Yazidi men and turned the women and children into handmaids and slaves. The author notes that this incident makes it clear that ISIS is meticulous in keeping its promises and carrying out its threats against the infidels, noting that it would continue to do so. Other examples cited by the author included the killing of Shiites in Camp Speicher (near Tikrit), where ISIS massacred some 1,700 people in 2014, and attacks carried out by its operatives against the Kurdish Peshmerga forces (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, December 9, 2021).

ISIS’s justification for killing minorities
(Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, December 9, 2021)

[1] Mostly according to ISIS’s claims of responsibility posted on Telegram
[2] Mainly according to ISIS's claims of responsibility posted on Telegram