Spotlight on Global Jihad (January 28 – February 3, 2021)

Bodies of two of the “terrorists” (implicitly, ISIS operatives) killed on the Deir ez-Zor-Palmyra road (Al-Ikhbariya al-Suriya, January 27, 2021)

Bodies of two of the “terrorists” (implicitly, ISIS operatives) killed on the Deir ez-Zor-Palmyra road (Al-Ikhbariya al-Suriya, January 27, 2021)

The Afghan army vehicle.

The Afghan army vehicle.

The vehicle after the IED was detonated (Telegram, February 1, 2021)

The vehicle after the IED was detonated (Telegram, February 1, 2021)

Main events of the past week
  • The main event of the past week was the targeted killing of Abu Yasser al-Issawi, ISIS’s deputy leader and governor of ISIS’s Iraq Province, by US-led International Coalition planes in collaboration with Iraqi forces, about a week after ISIS’s mass-casualty double suicide bombing attack in Baghdad (January 21, 2021). A few days later, Iraqi security forces killed two other ISIS operatives who had been involved in the attack.
  • The scope of ISIS’s activity in Iraq and Syria was similar to that of previous weeks. In Africa, there was a decrease in the number of attacks this week, but this may be due to problems with ISIS’s media system, which issued relatively few reports of attacks carried out by its operatives. In the Khorasan Province (i.e., Afghanistan), on the other hand, there was an increase in ISIS’s activity this week, which was characterized by attacks against the regime’s security forces, against the Taliban and against Shiite civilians, considered by ISIS to be infidels.
  • In Syria: In the Idlib region, exchanges of artillery fire continued between the Syrian army and the forces supporting it, and the rebel organizations, south and southeast of Idlib. In the desert region (Al-Badia), the Syrian army killed several ISIS operatives who had been involved in attacks against Syrian army forces. In the Al-Raqqah region, an IED was detonated against a bus carrying Syrian soldiers. Seven soldiers were killed and several others were wounded.
  • In Iraq: ISIS’s activity continued, including an attack on high-voltage pylons supplying electricity to Kirkuk. The Iraqi Ministry of Defense announced the start of an operation to eradicate ISIS’s presence in Iraq’s western desert region. The popular Mobilization forces announced the start of a campaign against ISIS in the Diyala Province.
The Syrian arena
The Idlib region

In the Idlib region, exchanges of artillery fire continued between the Syrian army and the forces supporting it, with Russian air support, and the rebel organizations, south and southwest of Idlib (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights).

The desert region (Al-Badia)
Blowing up a gas pipeline in the Al-Sukhnah Desert
  • On the evening of January 28, 2021, “persons unknown” (apparently, ISIS operatives) detonated an IED against a gas pipeline in the Al-Sukhnah Desert, about 60 km northeast of Palmyra. Syrian army reinforcements arriving at the scene exchanged fire with gunmen, apparently, ISIS operatives (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, January 29, 2021). Blowing up gas and oil pipelines is part of the “economic war” waged by ISIS in Syria, Iraq and the Sinai Peninsula. As part of this war, ISIS operatives attack gas pipelines, high-voltage pylons, gas and oil industry facilities, and oil tankers.
Syrian army counterterrorist attack
  •  The Syrian army killed eight “terrorists” (implicitly, ISIS operatives) on the Deir ez-Zor-Palmyra road. The eight operatives had reportedly carried out attacks against the Syrian army in the Al-Shula area, about 30 km southwest of Deir ez-Zor (Al-Ikhbariya al-Suriya, January 27, 2021). The next day, Syrian soldiers killed three other “terrorists” who reportedly attacked Syrian army vehicles in the Deir ez-Zor rural area (Al-Ikhbariya al-Suriya, January 29, 2021).
ISIS’s activity[1]
Al-Raqqah region
  • On February 2, 2021, an IED was activated against an oil tanker of the Al-Qaterji company about 10 km northwest of Al-Raqqah. Two of the passengers were wounded. The tanker was damaged (the Al-Qaterji company is owned by Hussam al-Qaterji, a Syrian MP and commander in the Homeland Defense Forces. The company supplies oil to the Syrian regime).
  • On February 1, 2021, an IED was activated against an SDF vehicle in central Al-Raqqah. One fighter was killed and another was wounded.
  • On January 30, 2021, an IED was activated against a bus carrying Syrian soldiers about 25 km northwest of Al-Raqqah. Seven soldiers were killed and others were wounded.
  • On January 29, 2021, a sticky bomb was activated against the car of Ahmed Ibrahim, the mayor of Al-Raqqah (which is controlled by the SDF). The bomb was activated when a sack hidden under the car was discovered and removed. The car was reportedly damaged (Enab Baladi, a Syrian news website affiliated with the rebels, January 30, 2021). ISIS claimed responsibility for the attempt on the life of the Al-Raqqah mayor. According to ISIS, the mayor was wounded (Telegram, January 30, 2021).
  • On January 27, 2021, an IED was activated against an SDF vehicle about 14 km southeast of Al-Raqqah. The passengers were killed.
Deir ez-Zor and Albukamal region
  • On February 1, 2021, ISIS operatives fired at an SDF fighter in the Al-Basira area, about 25 km southeast of Deir ez-Zor. The fighter was killed. In addition, a member of the SDF civilian council in the Al-Basira area was targeted by machine gun fire about 15 km north of Al-Mayadeen. He was killed.
Al-Hasakah region
  • On January 27, 2021, an IED was activated against an SDF vehicle on the highway near Al-Shadadi, about 50 km south of Al-Hasakah. The passengers were wounded.
Anti-ISIS activity in the Deir ez-Zor and Al-Mayadeen region
  • During the week, the Russian Air Force and the SDF forces carried out several counterterrorist activities against ISIS operatives. On January 31, 2021, the Russian Air Force carried out four airstrikes against ISIS targets in the Al-Shula Desert, south of Deir ez-Zor (@DeirEzzor24, January 31, 2021). An SDF force apprehended four suspected ISIS operatives on the outskirts of the Deir ez-Zor Province. In addition, weapons were found which apparently belonged to the four detainees (www.kurdistan24.net, January 30, 2021).
  •  On January 31, an SDF force operating in collaboration with the International Coalition apprehended an ISIS operative who allegedly had manufactured IEDs in Diban, about 5 km east of Al-Mayadeen (@DeirEzzor24 Twitter account, January 31, 2021; www.kurdistan24.net, February 1, 2021).
The apprehended ISIS operative who allegedly was manufacturing IEDs (@DeirEzzor24 Twitter account, January 31, 2021)
The apprehended ISIS operative who allegedly was manufacturing IEDs
(@DeirEzzor24 Twitter account, January 31, 2021)
Hezbollah recruitment attempts
  • According to Deir ez-Zor local sources, last week, Hezbollah operatives carried out recruitment activity among the younger residents of the city (Orient News, January 31, 2021). It appears that the recruitment attempts were made due to Hezbollah’s need to cope with ISIS attacks on the Deir ez-Zor desert rural area.
 The Iraqi arena
Provinces of Iraq (Wikipedia)
Provinces of Iraq (Wikipedia)
ISIS’s economic war continues: blowing up high-voltage pylons
  •  According to ISIS’s Al-Naba’ weekly from January 28, 2021, on January 24, 2021, ISIS operatives used IEDs to blow up nine high-voltage pylons in the Al-Riyad area, about 15 km south of Hawija, on the Kirkuk-Baiji road (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, January 28, 2021). Iraqi sources reported power outages in the Kirkuk area as a result (Facebook page of the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity, January 24, 2021).
Two of the high-voltage pylons that were hit (Facebook page of the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity, January 24, 2021)
Two of the high-voltage pylons that were hit
(Facebook page of the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity, January 24, 2021)

ISIS attacks[2]

Kirkuk Province
  • On February 1, 2021, an IED was activated against an Iraqi police vehicle near a village about 70 km southwest of Kirkuk. Two policemen were killed.
  • On January 29, 2021, an Iraqi policeman was targeted by machine gun fire on the Kirkuk-Tikrit road. He was killed. An Iraqi police assistance force arriving at the scene was targeted by RPG rockets and machine gun fire. Several policemen were killed or wounded. Six vehicles were put out of commission.
Salah al-Din Province
  • On January 26, 2021, an IED was activated against an Iraqi army vehicle in the al-Hissan area, about 100 km north of Baghdad. The passengers were killed or wounded.
  • On January 26, 2021, an IED was activated against a bulldozer of the Popular Mobilization forces in the Al-Aith area, about 100 km north of Baghdad. The driver was wounded.
Counterterrorist activity by the Iraqi security forces
  • The Iraqi Defense Ministry announced that on February 1, 2021, the army, along with Popular Mobilization and Tribal Mobilization forces and police, had launched an operation to eradicate ISIS’s presence in the Iraqi western desert region (Nineveh and Salah al-Din provinces) (Iraqi Defense Ministry, February 1, 2021).
ISIS’s deputy leader and governor of the Iraq Province killed
  • During the week, several senior ISIS operatives were eliminated in Iraq:
    • On January 27, 2021, the Iraqi security forces killed Abu Yasser al-Issawi, ISIS’s deputy leader and governor of ISIS’s Iraq Province. According to American sources, he was killed by aircraft of the US-led International Coalition in collaboration with Iraqi forces, when they attacked a building where he was staying. Iraqi Armed Forces Spokesman Yahya Rasoul noted that he was killed to avenge the deaths of those killed in the double suicide bombing attack in Baghdad on January 21, 2021. Jabbar Salman Ali Farhan al-Issawi, 39, was an Iraqi from the Fallujah area (Iraqi News Agency, January 28, 2021; The New York Times, January 29, 2021).
Abu Yasser al-Issawi, who was killed this week (Al-Iraq.net, January 28, 2021)
Abu Yasser al-Issawi, who was killed this week (Al-Iraq.net, January 28, 2021)
    • On January 30, 2021, an Iraqi army force killed Muthanna Shataran al-Marawi, ISIS’s military commander in charge of the Al-Rutba region, in western Iraq (Iraqi security information office, January 30, 2021).
    • The Iraqi prime minister announced that the security forces had killed Jaber Ali Fayad, ISIS’s commander of Southern Iraq, and another ISIS operative who was with him. According to Iraqi Armed Forces Spokesman Yahya Rasoul, Jaber Ali Fayad, codenamed Abu Hassan al-Gharibawi, supervised the double suicide bombing attack in Baghdad on January 21, 2021. The second operative who was killed was responsible for the transportation of the two suicide bombers to the scene of the attack (Al-Arabiya, February 3, 2021; Twitter account of Iraqi Armed Forces Spokesman Yahya Rasoul, February 2, 2021).
Additional counterterrorism activity
Diyala Province
  • On February 2, 2021, ISIS operatives ambushed and fired machine guns at Popular Mobilization fighters northeast of the Naft Khana region, about 20 km south of Khanaqin. Four fighters and a commander were killed. In addition, weapons, ammunition and two motorcycles were seized. According to another statement by ISIS, three commanders in the 1st Brigade of the Popular Mobilization and two of their escorts were killed in the incident (Telegram, February 2, 2021). The day after the incident, the Popular Mobilization forces announced the start of a campaign against ISIS in the Diyala Province (Al-Sumaria, February 3, 2021).
Salah al-Din Province
  • On February 1, 2021, the Iraqi Ministry of Defense announced the arrest of five women who worked for ISIS in the Salah al-Din Province. The women admitted that they were ISIS members (Iraqi Ministry of Defense, February 1, 2021).
Al-Anbar Province
  • On January 31, 2021, Iraqi army forces destroyed an ISIS camp northeast of Rutba, in western Iraq. Weapons and ammunition were found in the camp (Iraqi security information office, February 1, 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 January 21-27, 2021. During this period, ISIS operatives carried out 59 attacks in the various provinces in Asia and Africa, compared to 90 in the previous week. The largest number of attacks were carried out in Iraq (19). Attacks carried out in ISIS’s other provinces: West Africa (15); Syria (13); Sinai Peninsula (6); Khorasan, i.e., Afghanistan (5) and Pakistan (1) (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, January 28, 2021).
  • According to the infographic, 264 people were killed and wounded in those attacks, compared to 226 in the previous week. The largest number of casualties was in Iraq, mainly due to the double suicide bombing attack carried out in Baghdad on January 21, 2021 (176). The other casualties were in the following provinces: Syria (39); West Africa (30); Khorasan, i.e., Afghanistan (10); Sinai Peninsula (8); and Pakistan (1) (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, January 28, 2021).

Afghanistan

Summary of ISIS’s activity in Afghanistan in 2020
  • ISIS released an infographic summing up its activity in Afghanistan in 2020. According to the infographic, last year ISIS carried out 82 attacks, i.e., about 7 attacks per month. The most common modus operandi was activating IEDs (32 attacks). This was followed by targeted killings (21); attacks of various kinds (17); raids and suicide bombing attacks (8); and exchanges of fire (4) (Telegram, January 31, 2021).
  •  According to the infographic, 821 people were killed and wounded in attacks carried out in Afghanistan in 2020. It should be noted that the average number of casualties in the attacks carried out by ISIS in Afghanistan, about 10 casualties per attack, is extremely high among ISIS’s various provinces. This is compared to an average of 8.7 casualties per attack in Nigeria, for example. The largest number of casualties was among Afghan soldiers and operatives of the Afghan security services (408 casualties), which were the main target of ISIS’s activity. They are followed by Shiites (345); Taliban forces (66); and the International Coalition (2) (Telegram, 31 January 2021).
Infographic summing up ISIS’s activity in Afghanistan in 2020 (Telegram, January 31, 2021)
Infographic summing up ISIS’s activity in Afghanistan in 2020 (Telegram, January 31, 2021)
  • This week, the increase in ISIS’s activity continued, mainly in the cities of Kabul and Jalalabad. Many of the attacks targeted Shiite civilians, referred to by ISIS as “polytheist objectors:”
    • On February 2, 2021, an IED was detonated against the vehicle of Dr. Muhammad Atef, chairman of the Central Council of the Afghanistan Reform Association. He was killed (Afghanistan Times, February 2, 2021). ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, noting that the Afghanistan Reform Association is part of the Muslim Brotherhood movement (a rival of ISIS).

Dr. Muhammad Atef, killed by an ISIS IED in Kabul (Afghan Organization for Media & Researches – AOMR, February 2, 2021)
Dr. Muhammad Atef, killed by an ISIS IED in Kabul
(Afghan Organization for Media & Researches – AOMR, February 2, 2021)

    • On February 2, 2021, an IED was activated against an Afghan border patrol vehicle in Jalalabad. Four fighters were killed and another was wounded.
    • On February 2, 2021, an Afghan Intelligence operative was targeted by machine gun fire in the city of Jalalabad. He was killed.
    • On February 2, 2021, an IED was activated against the vehicle of a “polytheist objector” (i.e., Shiite) in the city of Jalalabad. He was killed.
    • On February 1, 2021, an IED was activated against the vehicle of a Shiite resident in Kabul. A passenger in the vehicle was killed.
    • On January 30, 2021, an IED was activated against the vehicle of Shiite residents in Kabul. Five of the passengers were killed or wounded, including an Afghan security operative.
    • On January 28, 2021, ISIS operatives ambushed a vehicle driven by Taliban commanders in the Kunar region, activating an IED and firing machine guns. Four Taliban commanders and an escort were killed. One of the commanders had been in charge of Taliban intelligence.
    • On January 28, 2021, a vehicle carrying an Afghan intelligence operatives and another person from the Finance Ministry were targeted by machine gun fire in Jalalabad. Both of them were killed.
    • On January 28, 2021, an IED was activated against an Afghan army vehicle in Jalalabad. Five soldiers were killed or wounded. On February 1, 2021, ISIS released a video documenting the IED explosion (Telegram, February 1, 2021).
    • On January 27, 2021, an IED was activated against a vehicle carrying four Shiite residents in Kabul. The passengers were killed or wounded.
Pakistan
  • During the week, ISIS operatives claimed responsibility for three attacks on Pakistani intelligence personnel in the Bajaur District, about 200 km northwest of Islamabad, near the border with Afghanistan: On February 1, 2021, an IED was activated against an intelligence operative, mortally wounding him; On January 28, 2021, an intelligence operative was targeted by gunfire. He was killed; On January 26, 2021, a Pakistani intelligence “agent” was targeted by gunfire. He was killed.
Lebanon
  • The Lebanese army announced the arrest of 18 Syrian and Lebanese civilians suspected of being ISIS operatives, in the Arsal region, on the Syrian-Lebanese border. According to the report, they were arrested at the end of an operation that lasted about two weeks (Reuters, February 1, 2021).
Africa
Nigeria
  • On February 1, 2021, an IED was activated against a Nigerian army foot patrol in Malam Fatori, about 200 km north of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, near the Niger-Chad border. Five soldiers were killed or wounded.
  • On January 31, 2021, ISIS operatives attacked a Nigerian police checkpoint near Maiduguri. Four policemen were killed and several others were taken prisoner. In addition, weapons, ammunition and vehicles were seized.
The battle for hearts and minds / propaganda
  • A feature article published this week in ISIS’s Al-Naba’ weekly entitled “Brothers of the Objectors [i.e., Shiites] whine again!” accuses Sunni Muslims who support the Shiite axis. In his article, the author justifies ISIS’s activity against Iran, Hezbollah and the Shiites in general (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, January 28, 2021):
    • The author mentions the Second Lebanon War, which took place between Israel and Hezbollah in the summer of 2006. According to him, this war led to Syrian support for Hezbollah, which was presented as the winner of the war against Israel and as a symbol of jihad fighting. According to the author, in view of this, Iran and Hezbollah soon began operating in Syria for the “dictator Bashar al-Assad,” in a way that made their hatred of Sunni Muslims crystal clear. At the same time, they also operated against the Sunni “jihad fighters” in Iraq.
    •  The author refutes the criticism leveled at ISIS for killing Shiites and justifies ISIS’s activity against Iran, Hezbollah and Shiites in general. He claims that the war against the Shiites is a religious war and does not stem from any interests. The author ends the article with the remark that those who remain silent in the face of the persecution of Sunni Muslims by the Shiites should also remain silent when ISIS’s ‘“jihad fighters” attack the Shiites.
The article in Al-Naba’ weekly (Telegram, January 28, 2021)
The article in Al-Naba’ weekly (Telegram, January 28, 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