Spotlight on Global Jihad (February 25 – March 3, 2021)

ISIS car bomb explosion near Haditha (Al-Sumaria, February 28, 2021)

ISIS car bomb explosion near Haditha (Al-Sumaria, February 28, 2021)

Weapons and ammunition seized by ISIS operatives (Telegram, March 1, 2021)

Weapons and ammunition seized by ISIS operatives (Telegram, March 1, 2021)

Weapons training of the next generation (Telegram, February 28, 2021)

Weapons training of the next generation (Telegram, February 28, 2021)

Weapons training of the next generation (Telegram, February 28, 2021)

Weapons training of the next generation (Telegram, February 28, 2021)

Main events of the past week
  • Syria: In the Idlib region, exchanges of artillery fire continued between the Syrian army and the forces supporting it, and the rebel forces south of Idlib. Russian warplanes continued to carry out airstrikes against the rebel enclave in Idlib. The Deir ez-Zor-Al-Mayadeen region: There was an explosion in a gas pipeline that runs from the eastern part of Hama to the Al-Shadadi region. The explosion of the pipeline stopped the flow of gas in the area. ISIS did not issue an official claim of responsibility but its operatives were apparently behind the attack.
  • Iraq: The main event this week was a car bomb explosion in the western Al-Anbar Province, killing and wounding at least 15 Iraqi soldiers and Tribal Mobilization fighters. As part of their counterterrorism operations, this week, Iraqi security forces detained a senior ISIS commander in charge of manufacturing ISIS’s IEDs in Iraq. This is the latest in a series of senior ISIS figures who were recently detained or killed in Iraq.
  • Egypt: Three Egyptian soldiers were killed, including an officer with the rank of colonel, when an IED was activated against an Egyptian army foot patrol south of the city of Rafah. ISIS’s Sinai Province claimed responsibility for the attack.
  • Africa: ISIS carried out noteworthy attacks in Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In Nigeria, ISIS operatives temporarily took control of the town of Dikwa in the northeast of the country. ISIS operatives took control of a UN aid center in the town, and abducted several aid workers. In the Congo, 35 soldiers were killed in an attack carried out by ISIS’s operatives in the Beni region, in the northeast of the country. In Niger, ISIS operatives blew up a high-voltage pylon in the Diffa region. According to ISIS’s claim of responsibility, the attack was part of the “economic war” being waged by ISIS in the various provinces.
  • Counterterrorism in Europe: In Germany, a Muslim preacher of Iraqi descent was sentenced to prison for recruiting ISIS fighters throughout Germany. Turkey arrested three ISIS operatives who had attempted to illegally cross the border from Syria. Materials for preparing IEDs were found in their possession.
The Syrian arena
מפת מחוזות סוריה (Freeworlamaps)
Provinces of Syria (Freeworlamaps)
The Idlib region
  • During the week, exchanges of artillery fire continued in the region south and southeast of the rebel enclave in Idlib almost on a daily basis between the rebel forces headed by HTS, and the Syrian army and the forces supporting it (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, February 2021). Russian fighter jets carried out airstrikes against rebel targets in the western part of the enclave (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, February 20, 2021).
  • HTS operatives detained several operatives of rival organizations in the rebel enclave. On February 25, 2021, several ISIS operatives were detained in Al-Atareb, east of Aleppo (@smmsyria Twitter account, February 25, 2021). On February 28, 2021, two operatives of Hurras al-Din, an organization affiliated with Al-Qaeda, were detained (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, February 20, 2021).
The desert region (Al-Badia)
  • ISIS operatives attacked a force of Syrian army troops and the forces supporting them between the provinces of Hama, Aleppo and Al-Raqqah. Nine Syrian soldiers and fighters of the forces supporting them were killed and several others were wounded. Communication was lost with 12 other soldiers and it is unclear whether they managed to flee or were captured by ISIS. In support of the Syrian army troops, Russian fighter jets carried out several airstrikes against ISIS in the area (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, February 20, 2021).
The Deir ez-Zor-Al-Mayadeen region
  •  The Syrian Oil Ministry reported an explosion in the gas pipeline that runs from the eastern part of Hama to the Al-Shadadi region. The explosion occurred in the Abu Khashab area, about 70 km north of Deir ez-Zor, and the gas supply was stopped (SANA, February 27, 2021). For the time being, no organization has claimed responsibility. However, it seems that ISIS was behind the attack, which is quite similar to the “economic attacks” which have recently been carried out by ISIS against civilian infrastructure in the various provinces.
The pipeline being blown up (SANA, February 27, 2021)
The pipeline being blown up (SANA, February 27, 2021)
  • Following are additional noteworthy incidents[1]:
    • On February 25, 2021, an “infidel sorcerer” (as referred to in ISIS’s statement) was targeted by machine gun fire in Sabha, about 25 km southeast of Deir ez-Zor.
    • On February 23, 2021, an SDF roadblock about 15 km north of Al-Mayadeen was targeted by machine gun fire and RPG rockets. Two SDF fighters were wounded.
Al-Raqqah region
  • On February 27, 2021, an IED was activated against an SDF vehicle east of Karamah, about 40 km east of Al-Raqqah. The passengers were wounded and the vehicle was put out of commission. Several days before, on February 23, 2021, an IED was activated against an SDF vehicle north of Al-Raqqah. Two SDF fighters were killed and the vehicle was put out of commission.
Al-Hasakah region
  • On February 23, 2021, two SDF fighters were captured in the Tel Hamis area, about 60 km northeast of Al-Hasakah. They were later executed.
Russian helicopter crash
  • The Russian Defense Ministry reported that a Russian Mi-35 helicopter on a reconnaissance mission in the Al-Hasakah region made an emergency landing. According to the Defense Ministry, this was due to a technical malfunction rather than gunfire at the helicopter, and the crew escaped unscathed (Kommersant, February 28, 2021). Local sources in Al-Hasakah said that three Russian soldiers and the helicopter commander had been killed (Khotwa, February 28, 2021).
The Iraqi arena
Provinces of Iraq (Wikipedia)
Provinces of Iraq (Wikipedia)

ISIS’s attacks in the various provinces in Iraq[2]

Al-Anbar Province
  • According to an ISIS report, on February 28, 2021, its operatives detonated a car bomb in the Haditha area, in the western Al-Anbar Province, about 120 km from the Iraqi-Syrian border. According to the report, the car was parked close to a group of Iraqi army soldiers and Tribal Mobilization fighters and was detonated against them. Eight Iraqi soldiers and Tribal Mobilization fighters were killed and at least seven others were wounded. According to an Iraqi security source, the car bomb exploded when a security forces team was trying to neutralize it. One soldier was killed and five others were wounded. In addition, six Tribal Mobilization fighters were killed, and several others were wounded (Al-Sumaria, February 28, 2021).
Diyala Province
  • On March 1, 2021, mortar shells were fired at an Iraqi army base in southern Jalula, about 75 km northeast of Baqubah. According to ISIS reports, the camp sustained damage. No casualties were reported.
  • On February 28, 2021, a Popular Mobilization vehicle was targeted by gunfire in the Kanaan area, about 15 km southeast of Baqubah. Three fighters were killed and the vehicle was destroyed.
  • On February 23, 2021, an IED was activated against a vehicle carrying a Tribal Mobilization fighter in the Al-Azim area, about 60 km north of Baqubah. The fighter was wounded and the vehicle was put out of commission.
Kirkuk Province
  • On February 24, 2021, Popular Mobilization fighters were targeted by machine gun fire near Kara Tapa, about 75 km north of Baqubah. Two fighters were wounded and an engineering vehicle was put out of commission.
Salah al-Din Province
ISIS’s economic war continues
  • ISIS’s Al-Naba’ weekly reported two incidents in which ISIS operatives hit economic infrastructure in Iraq in what was dubbed “operations as part of the economic war against the dissent government [i.e., the Shiite government of Iraq] and its infidel militias.” According to the report, on February 11, 2021, ISIS operatives activated IEDs against high-voltage pylons and a generator in use by the Popular Mobilization forces in the Tikrit region. The report also stated that ISIS operatives had blown up a water well in use by the Tribal Mobilization north of Al-Alam, about 15 km north of Tikrit (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, February 25, 2021).

The report in ISIS’s Al-Naba' weekly about the attacks (Al-Naba' weekly, Telegram, February 25, 2021)
The report in ISIS’s Al-Naba’ weekly about the attacks
(Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, February 25, 2021)

  • On February 28, 2021, two Iraqi soldiers were targeted by gunfire in the Tarmiyah area, about 30 km north of Baghdad. One soldier was killed and the other was wounded.
Counterterrorism measures in Iraq
Senior ISIS commander detained west of Baghdad
  • As part of the Iraqi intelligence counterterrorism activities, Nimr Baghdad, who was in charge of manufacturing ISIS’s IEDs in Iraq, was detained in Abu Ghraib area, west of Baghdad (Al-Hurra, February 25, 2021). Nimr Baghdad is another in a series of senior ISIS operatives who have recently been detained or killed by the Iraqi security forces. The list includes Abu Yasser al-Issawi, deputy ISIS leader and governor (wali) of the Iraq Province, and Ghanem Sabah Jawad, who was in charge of the transportation of suicide bombers and operatives, both killed in an airstrike on January 28, 2021; Muthanna Shataran al-Marawi, ISIS military commander in the desert area, killed on January 30, 2021, in western Iraq; Jabbar Ali Fayad, ISIS’s South Iraq commander, killed on February 2, 2021; and Muhannad Ahmad Habib, commander of North Baghdad and Karma, killed on February 4, 2021.
Al-Anbar Province
  • During the week, the Iraqi security forces detained several ISIS operatives. The Iraqi Border Police located in the desert area (no specific location was mentioned, but it was probably near the Syrian border) several dozen rockets apparently hidden by ISIS operatives (Al-Sumaria, March 1, 2021).
Kirkuk Province
  • A force of the counterterrorism unit detained three ISIS operatives in Kirkuk (Al-Sumaria, February 28, 2021).
Nineveh Province
  • A force of the counterterrorism unit detained three ISIS operatives south of Mosul (Al-Sumaria, February 28, 2021).
Sinai Peninsula
Egyptian senior officer killed
  • According to an ISIS report, its operatives activated an IED against an Egyptian army foot patrol near the Abu Zamat roadblock, south of Rafah. Three soldiers were killed, including Ahmad Abdel Mohsen, an officer with the rank of colonel (aqid). One soldier was wounded (Telegram, February 28, 2021). “Local sources” in the Sinai Peninsula reported that Col. Ahmad Abdel Mohsen was one of the senior commanders of the Egyptian ground forces in North Sinai, and that he was killed in an IED explosion south of Rafah while fighting against the “terrorist dens” (@sinainewsnow Twitter account, February 27, 2021).
Col. Ahmad Abdel Mohsen, killed south of Rafah (@mahmouedgamal44 Twitter account, February 27, 2021)
Col. Ahmad Abdel Mohsen, killed south of Rafah
(@mahmouedgamal44 Twitter account, February 27, 2021)
ISIS’s activity around the globe[3]
Summary of ISIS’s activity in the various provinces
  • ISIS released an infographic summing up its activity around the world on February 18–24, 2021. According to the infographic, during this period, ISIS operatives carried out 51 attacks in the various provinces in Asia and Africa, compared to 63 in the previous week. The largest number of attacks were carried out in Iraq (15). Attacks carried out in ISIS’s other provinces: Syria (14); West Africa (11); Central Africa (4); Khorasan, i.e. Afghanistan (4); Sinai (2); and Pakistan (1) (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, February 25, 2021).
  • According to the infographic, 175 people were killed and wounded in those attacks, compared to 188 in the previous week. The largest number of casualties was in West Africa (96). The other casualties were in the following provinces: Khorasan, i.e. Afghanistan (24); Iraq (21); Syria (17); Central Africa (11); Sinai (5); and Pakistan (1) (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, February 25, 2021).
  • The infographic reflects a sharp increase in the number of casualties this week as a result of ISIS’s attacks in Africa. In addition, it indicates that ISIS continues to operate in Afghanistan at relatively high intensity, although the number of casualties in this province was lower than in the previous week.
The infographic of ISIS’s weekly operations (Al-Naba' weekly, Telegram, February 25, 2021)
The infographic of ISIS’s weekly operations
(Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, February 25, 2021)

Asia

Afghanistan
  • During the week, ISIS’s activity centered on the city of Jalalabad. Most of the activity was directed against security personnel. In another incident, three female journalists were targeted by gunfire. Several noteworthy incidents[4]:
    • On March 1, 2021, three female journalists who worked at one of the government-affiliated media outlets were targeted by gunfire. All three of them were killed. This is not the first time that ISIS operatives have assassinated journalists working for media outlets affiliated with the authorities.
    • On February 27, 2021, an IED was activated against the car of a local councilman. Two of his security guards were wounded and the vehicle was put out of commission.
    • On February 26, 2021, a sticky bomb was activated against the vehicle of an Afghan Intelligence operative. He was killed.
    • On February 26, 2021, ISIS operatives detonated an IED against a police van. Two policemen in the van were killed and four others were wounded.
Turkey
  • The Turkish authorities continued their counterterrorism activity against suspected ISIS operatives. During the week, three ISIS operatives were arrested while attempting to illegally cross the border from Syria into Turkish territory. Weapons in their possession were seized, including several hundred grams of plastic explosives and two electronic components for manufacturing IEDs (Anatolia News Agency, February 27, 2021).
Africa
  • This week, ISIS’s Al-Naba’ weekly published an infographic summing up the organization’s activity in the West Africa Province between February 17-23, 2021. According to the infographic, ISIS’s operatives carried out 11 attacks during this period, in which at least 96 people were killed or wounded. They consisted of one suicide bombing attack, four planned ambushes, three IED attacks and three attacks in the form of assault and exchanges of fire. Ninety of the casualties were wounded in Nigeria and six in Niger. According to ISIS, it destroyed 20 vehicles and seized five vehicles in these attacks (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, February 25, 2021).
The infographic as it appeared in ISIS’s Al-Naba’ weekly (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, February 25, 2021) T
he infographic as it appeared in ISIS’s Al-Naba’ weekly
(Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, February 25, 2021)
Nigeria
The attack on the town of Dikwa
  • This week, ISIS carried out noteworthy activity in the town of Dikwa, located about 50 km west of the Nigeria-Cameroon border in Borno State, northeastern Nigeria. On March 1, 2021, ISIS operatives took over the town for several hours. While holding the town, they attacked an army base. Six soldiers were killed and several others were wounded in the exchange of fire. The other soldiers fled. A few hours later, the ISIS operatives left the scene. Before leaving, they set fire to the base, four armored vehicles and two vehicles for transporting soldiers (Telegram, March 2, 2021).
  • The next day (March 2, 2021), another attack was carried out against a Nigerian army base in Dikwa. ISIS operatives took over the base after killing two soldiers and wounding several others. After the Nigerian army withdrew from the town, ISIS operatives took it over and set fire to a number of government buildings and buildings belonging to the UN. They also seized three military vehicles, weapons and ammunition. A few hours later, the ISIS operatives left the town.
  • According to a Nigerian security source, operatives of ISIS’s West Africa Province also attacked a UN humanitarian aid center in the town. A total of 25 humanitarian aid workers remained besieged in the center, which was set on fire by the operatives (AFP, March 2, 2021). It was later reported that the aid workers took refuge in a shelter in the town (humangle.ng, March 2, 2021). According to subsequent reports, at least seven of them were taken prisoner by ISIS (vanguardngr.com, March 3, 2021). Nigerian army aid forces on their way to the town were ambushed, apparently by ISIS operatives (humangle.ng, March 2, 2021).
  • Additional attacks, according to claims of responsibility issued by ISIS:
    • On March 1, 2021, ISIS operatives took over the town of Bukarti, about 50 km south of the Nigeria-Niger border in Yobe State. They set fire to several government buildings and attacked a Nigerian army base. One soldier was killed and several others were wounded. ISIS operatives set fire to the camp.
    • On March 1, 2021, ISIS operatives clashed with a Nigerian army force near Geidam, about 30 km south of the Nigeria-Niger border in Yobe State. Two soldiers were killed and two vehicles were put out of commission.
    • On March 1, 2021, a Nigerian army patrol was ambushed on the Kafa-Gurjia road, about 100 km southwest of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State. An IED was activated against the patrol and was followed by an exchange of fire. Several soldiers were either killed or wounded in the incident.
    • On March 1, 2021, an IED was activated against Nigerian army forces in Baga, about 25 km west of the Nigeria-Cameroon-Chad tri-border area. Five soldiers were wounded.
    • On February 28, 2021, a Nigerian army patrol was ambushed on the Auno-Jakana road, about 200 km west of the Nigeria-Cameroon border. Several soldiers were killed or wounded in the exchange of fire. ISIS operatives seized weapons and ammunition.
    • On February 23, 2021, ISIS operatives repulsed an attack by the Nigerian army in the town of Marte, about 40 km west of the Nigeria-Cameroon border, in Borno State. There were exchanges of fire and several Nigerian soldiers were killed or wounded.
Boko Haram releases propaganda video showing the training of the next generation
  • Boko Haram has released a 16-minute video showing its operatives training the next generation of operatives (“Ashbal”). The video documents various aspects of the training, including: physical training, training in the use of weapons, assault and execution training, and religious studies (Telegram, February 28, 2021).
Weapons training of the next generation (Telegram, February 28, 2021)    Weapons training of the next generation (Telegram, February 28, 2021)
Weapons training of the next generation (Telegram, February 28, 2021)
Niger
  • On February 24, 2021, a Nigerien army checkpoint was attacked in the Diffa region, on the Niger-Nigeria border. The two sides exchanged fire. Several soldiers were wounded. The other soldiers fled. ISIS operatives seized weapons and ammunition.
  • On February 23, 2021, a high-voltage pylon was sabotaged in the Diffa region, on the Niger-Nigeria border. The pylon was destroyed. ISIS’s claim of responsibility states that the pylon was blown up as part of the “economic war” being waged by the organization. This seems to be the first time that Niger was the scene of this type of attack, which is typical of ISIS’s activities, primarily in Iraq.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • This week, ISIS operatives carried out two noteworthy attacks against Congolese soldiers in the Beni region, about 50 km west of the border between the Congo-Uganda border. The Congolese army suffered heavy losses. On February 27, 2021, a Congolese army camp was attacked. The two sides exchanged fire. Four soldiers were killed and several others were wounded. ISIS operatives seized weapons and ammunition. On February 26, 2021, ISIS operatives attacked a Congolese army force that approached ISIS positions in Losilosi, in the Beni region. At least 35 soldiers were killed and many others were wounded. After the attack, the soldiers withdrew and ISIS operatives seized weapons and ammunition that they left behind.
  • Other incidents are as follows:
    • On February 26, 2021, ISIS operatives ambushed and fired machine guns at a vehicle of Christians (“Christian infidels”) in northeastern Congo. The vehicle went up in flames and all the passengers were killed.
    • On February 23, 2021, a group of Christians (“Christian infidels”) was targeted by machine gun fire in the Beni region in northeastern Congo. At least five Christians were killed.
    • On February 23, 2021, a Congolese army vehicle was ambushed and fired at in the Beni region. The passengers were killed or wounded and the vehicle was put out of commission.
    • On February 23, 2021, a Christian village in the Ituri region in northeastern Congo was attacked. Eleven residents were taken prisoner and several houses were set on fire.
Mali
Activity of Al-Qaeda’s branch in the south of the country
  • The Aid Group for Islam and Muslims, Al-Qaeda’s branch in the Sahara and Sahel, claimed responsibility for the activation of an IED against a French army armored vehicle in the Ménaka region in southeastern Mali (Telegram, February 28, 2021). At the same time, the group released a video documenting an attack carried out by its operatives against Malian soldiers in the Bandiagara region in the south of the country. Nine soldiers were killed and several others were wounded (Telegram, February 27, 2021).

Europe

Germany
Muslim preacher of Iraqi descent sentenced to prison on charges of recruiting ISIS fighters throughout Germany
  • Ahmad Abdulaziz Abdullah, AKA Sheikh Abu Walaa, a preacher of Iraqi descent, was sentenced by a German court to ten and a half years in prison on charges of recruiting fighters for ISIS. Abu Walaa, 37, came to Germany in 2001 and lived with his family in the town of Tönisvorst in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Abu Walaa became one of the most influential Salafist figures in Germany. He was active in a mosque that became one of the hotspots of the Salafist movement in the country. He was also very active on social media. According to the charge sheet, Abu Walaa pledged allegiance to ISIS, took part in many events held by the Salafist movement, and set up a network designed to recruit fighters for ISIS in Syria. According to the indictment, at least seven operatives recruited by him went to the Middle East and fought in the ranks of ISIS (www.dw.com, February 24, 2021).
The Iraqi preacher convicted by a German court on charges of recruiting ISIS operatives (www.gulfeyes.net, February 24, 2021)
The Iraqi preacher convicted by a German court on charges of recruiting ISIS operatives (www.gulfeyes.net, February 24, 2021)

[1] According to ISIS’s claims of responsibility posted on Telegram
[2] According to ISIS’s claims of responsibility posted on Telegram

[3] According to ISIS’s claims of responsibility posted on Telegram

[4] According to ISIS’s claims of responsibility posted on Telegram