General Hassan Abdollahzadeh (left) with Commander Qassem Soleimani (Tasnim, May 5, 2021).
Militiamen's houses in the village of Kawaji that were set on fire by ISIS operatives (Telegram, June 6, 2021)
Documentation of the execution of the five "infidel Christians."
The car bomb blast in Jalalabad (Telegram, June 2, 2021)
Main events of the past week
- This week, ISIS’s activity in the various provinces continued at a “routine” level:
- Syria: The main event this week was an attack, apparently carried out by ISIS operatives, against a convoy of the Syrian army and members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the Al-Sukhnah Desert, on the Palmyra-Deir ez-Zor highway. More than 20 of the passengers in the convoy were killed, including two senior commanders in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards who served as advisers to the Syrian army, and a Syrian officer with the rank of general (liwa).
- Iraq: ISIS claimed responsibility for detonating an IED near the tomb of Imam Musa al-Kadhim in the Shiite Kadhimiya neighborhood in northern Baghdad. The attack was aimed against Shiite civilians. Three people were killed and at least 20 others were wounded in the attack. The Iraqi government claimed that a gas tank had exploded in one of the restaurants in the neighborhood.
- The Sinai Peninsula: ISIS operatives carried out a combined attack on an Egyptian army camp south of Sheikh Zuweid. The attack included sniper fire, additional gunfire at aid forces which arrived on the scene, and the activation of IEDs against a patrol that was combing the area.
- There has been a downtrend in ISIS’s activity in Africa. A noteworthy incident this week was the attack on a Nigerian army base in the northeastern Nigerian town of Damboa and the simultaneous attack on the town’s police headquarters. About 20 soldiers and policemen were killed.
- Libya: After a long period with no ISIS attacks in the country, this week ISIS carried out a suicide bombing attack at a roadblock set up by General Haftar’s army about 670 km south of Tripoli. At least four military personnel were killed, including an officer.
- The battle for hearts and minds:
- Al-Qaeda published a letter calling on operatives, after the end of the operation in the Gaza Strip, to continue the war, focusing on recruiting young Muslims. The letter also announced the opening of the War of the Mosques, intended to save young Muslims from Westernization, led by “the Zionists and their Arab collaborators.”
- ISIS: ISIS’s Al-Naba’ weekly continues to focus on the importance of propaganda. This time, the magazine addresses ISIS’s supporters, emphasizing the importance of their activity at the propaganda level, along with the organization’s official propaganda activity.
The Syrian arena
Syrian governorates (freeworldmaps.net)
The Idlib region
- During the week, exchanges of artillery fire continued almost daily between the Syrian army and the forces supporting it, and the rebel forces (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights).
The desert region (Al-Badia)
- A convoy consisting of seven vehicles, of the Syrian army and Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers, was ambushed and attacked in the Al-Sukhnah Desert, on the Palmyra-Deir ez-Zor highway. A total of 25 (according to some reports, 23) people, including two senior IRGC commanders who had served as advisers to the Syrian army, were killed in the attack. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, there was a series of incidents and IED detonations in various sites in the desert region, which took place during Russian airstrikes against ISIS targets. So far, no claim of responsibility has been issued, but it seems that ISIS was responsible for it (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, June 5, 2021).
- The Iranian officers killed were General Hassan Abdollahzadeh, who had served as an adviser to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and to Qassem Soleimani, former IRGC’s Qods Force commander; and Brigadier General Sa’id Majidi. Mohsen Abbasi, the escort of Hassan Abdollahzadeh, was also killed. Among those killed was also Nizar Abbas al-Fahoud, a Syrian major general (Tasnim, June 5, 2021; Al-Ayn, June 5, 2021; Al-Hal, June 5, 2021; Al-Arabiya, June 5, 2021).
Right: General Hassan Abdollahzadeh (left) with Commander Qassem Soleimani (Tasnim, May 5, 2021). Left: The death notice of Sa’id Majidi; it can be seen that his rank was the equivalent of brigadier general (@SaleemAldulimi Twitter account, June 5, 2021).
Major General Nizar Abbas al-Fahoud, the Syrian officer killed (Halab Al-Youm, June 4, 2021)
- On June 3, 2021, an IED was activated against a Syrian army vehicle east of Salamiyah, about 30 km southeast of Hama. No casualties were reported. Two days earlier, a Syrian army camp (which was apparently empty) in the area was targeted by gunfire and sustained damage.
- On June 4, 2021, the SDF counterterrorism unit detained Abd al-Karim Abdullah, who had served as ISIS’s commander in Shadadi. He was detained in one of the villages in the Shadadi region (kurdistan24.net, June 4, 2021).
- ISIS claimed responsibility for carrying out several attacks in the region, including the detonation of IEDs against SDF vehicles (June 4, 6, 2021) and the abduction of an SDF member who was later executed (June 2, 2021).
The Iraqi arena
Provinces of Iraq (Wikipedia)
- This week as well, ISIS operated in the various provinces in Iraq, but a significant decrease was evident in the number of attacks. The Iraqi security forces continued their counterterrorism measures against ISIS. The following is a list of attacks, mostly according to ISIS’s claims of responsibility.
- On June 5, 2021, two Iraqi army camps were attacked south of Daquq, in the southern part of Kirkuk. One of them sustained damage. The camps were apparently empty of soldiers.
- On June 2, 2021, an Iraqi police post was targeted by gunfire in the Rashad region, about 40 km southwest of Kirkuk. One policeman was killed.
Salah al-Din Province
- On June 8, 2021, an IED was activated against a vehicle carrying Tribal Mobilization fighters in the Alam region, about 10 km north of Tikrit. The five passengers were wounded.
- On June 7, 2021, an Iraqi army camp about 50 km northwest of Baiji was targeted by gunfire. Two soldiers were killed.
- On June 5, 2021, an IED was activated against an Iraqi army vehicle west of Tuz Khormato, about 100 km northeast of Samarra. The passengers were killed or wounded.
- On June 3, 2021, there were exchanges of fire between ISIS and a joint force of the Iraqi police and Iraqi army in the Yathrib region, about 40 km southeast of Samarra. Two members of the joint force were wounded.
- On June 1, 2021, mortar shells were fired at the Popular Mobilization headquarters in the Mashahida region, about 20 km north of Baghdad. According to ISIS, definite hits were observed, but there were no details of casualties (Telegram, June 2, 2021). The Popular Mobilization confirmed the incident, noting that eight mortar shells had been fired but there were no casualties, since the shells landed outside the camp area (Popular Mobilization website, June 1, 2021).
- On May 31, 2021, an IED was activated in an Iraqi army camp in the Al-Abaiji region, about 40 km north of Baghdad. One soldier was wounded. In the same area, Popular Mobilization fighters were targeted by gunfire. One fighter was killed and another was wounded.
- On June 3, 2021, ISIS claimed responsibility for detonating an IED against a group of Shiites near the tomb of Imam Musa al-Kadhim in the Kadhimiya neighborhood, in northern Baghdad. At least three people were killed and at least 20 others were wounded. According to the Iraqi government, a gas tank exploded in one of the restaurants in the neighborhood (Al-Hurra, June 3, 2021). ISIS claimed that the Iraqi government had attempted to cover up the incident in order to hide the fact that ISIS operatives had managed to infiltrate the area (Telegram, June 4, 2021).
- On June 5, 2021, an IED was activated against an Iraqi army foot patrol near the Iraqi-Saudi border. One soldier was wounded.
- On June 3, 2021, a Tribal Mobilization camp was targeted by gunfire in the Miqdadiya region, 40 km northeast of Baqubah. One fighter was wounded.
- On June 1, 2021, mortar shells were fired at the house of an Iraqi government “spy” in the southern Bahraz region, about 2 km southeast of Baqubah.
Counterterrorism in Iraq
- On June 2, 2021, the Iraqi army located 20 tons of sulfur, normally used for making explosive charges, in the Badoush Mountain area, northwest of Mosul. According to the Iraqi army, it belonged to ISIS (Al-Hurra, June 2, 2021).
- On June 6, 2021, the Iraqi security forces located an ISIS sleeper cell that had helped ISIS mainly logistically (Al-Sumaria, June 6, 2021).
- On June 3, 2021, the Iraqi security forces in Kirkuk located a network consisting of four ISIS members who used to smuggle operatives (Al-Araby al-Jadeed, June 3, 2021).
- On June 2, 2021, Kurdish Peshmerga forces, operating with the support of the US-led International Coalition, killed eight ISIS operatives south of Kirkuk (shafaq.com, June 2, 2021).
- On June 6, 2021, the Iraqi army in the Khanaqin rural area located a weapons cache that contained, among other things, mortar shells, rockets and explosives, apparently belonging to ISIS (Al-Sumaria, June 6, 2021).
The Sinai Peninsula
- On June 3, 2021, ISIS carried out a combined attack, during which ISIS operatives infiltrated an Egyptian army camp in the Hamrawi region, south of Sheikh Zuweid. The operatives seized a rifle and an RPG launcher. One soldier was wounded in the exchange of fire. A rescue force arriving at the site was targeted by gunfire, and three additional soldiers were wounded. The following day, the operatives detonated an IED against a patrol setting out to comb the area. Three soldiers were killed or wounded, and a tank was put out of commission. A soldier was killed and two others were wounded by sniper fire. That same day, an IED was activated against a vehicle of a militia loyal to the Egyptian army in the Barth area, south of Rafah. The passengers were killed or wounded.
- Egyptian security sources reported that ISIS operatives had abducted at least five residents of northern Sinai who were on their way to work in Bir al-Abd, in the Al-Salam water project, which was intended to bring water for agricultural purposes from the Nile Delta region. So far, ISIS has not issued any claim of responsibility (AFP, June 8, 2021).
- On June 4, 2021, another Egyptian officer was killed in Sinai: Ahmad Jum’ah, an intelligence officer with the rank of lieutenant colonel, was killed in the detonation of an IED in northern Sinai (www.light-dark.net, June 4, 2021). Apparently, the IED was planted by ISIS.
Summary of ISIS’s activity in the various provinces
- ISIS released an infographic summing up its activity around the globe in the period between May 27, 2021, and June 2, 2021. According to the infographic, during this period, ISIS operatives carried out 43 attacks in the various provinces in Asia and Africa, compared to 40 in the previous week. The largest number of attacks was carried out in Iraq (20). The attacks carried out in the other provinces: Khorasan, i.e., Afghanistan (11); Syria (4); Central Africa (4); West Africa (1); Sinai (1); Pakistan (1); and Indonesia (1) (ISIS’s Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, June 3, 2021).
- According to the infographic, 140 people were killed or wounded in the attacks, compared to 99 in the previous week. The largest number of casualties was in the province of Khorasan, i.e., Afghanistan (83). The other casualties were in the following provinces: Iraq (25); Central Africa (14); Syria (6); West Africa (5); Indonesia (4); Pakistan (2); and Sinai (1) (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, June 3, 2021).
- The infographic indicates that ISIS’s activity around the globe is now around 40 attacks a week, after the month of Ramadan, which ended on May 15, 2021, had witnessed a significant increase in the scope of ISIS’s activity. In addition, it appears that there was an increase in ISIS’s activity in Afghanistan and a decrease in its activity in the West Africa Province. In Syria, there was also a decrease in ISIS’s activity during the recent weeks.
ISIS’s infographic summing its attacks (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, June 3, 2021)
- In a statement addressed to his operatives, Abu Mus’ab al-Barnawi, the emir of ISIS’s West Africa Province, confirmed the death of Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau. He noted Shekau had committed a suicide on May 19, 2021, after refusing to surrender and turn himself in to ISIS’s operatives. According to the statement, Shekau was a “rogue, violent element” who committed murders that ISIS considered unacceptable (humangle.ng, June 5, 2021).
- A suicide bomber codenamed Mohammad al-Muhajer blew up a car bomb at a roadblock of General Haftar’s army north of Sabha, about 670 km south of Tripoli. At least four of Haftar’s men were killed, including an officer who headed the criminal identification department, and another high-ranking officer in that department. Two other soldiers were wounded, and three vehicles were destroyed. The site sustained heavy damage. The incident represents a dangerous development indicating that ISIS has regained the ability to carry out attacks after its activity had been almost completely suppressed in 2016.
Detonation of the car bomb at the roadblock (Telegram, June 6, 2021)
- ISIS operatives attacked a Nigerian army base in Damboa, about 80 km southwest of Maiduguri, in northeastern Nigeria. There was an exchange of fire between ISIS operatives and Nigerian soldiers. During the exchange of fire, an ISIS operative codenamed Abu Ali al-Ansari drove a car bomb into the base and activated it. The explosion caused many casualties. At the same time, another group of ISIS operatives attacked the police headquarters building in the town. In the two incidents, 20 Nigerian soldiers and policemen were killed and several others were wounded. The ISIS operatives destroyed a tank and a vehicle and seized various weapons and ammunition.
- Two days later, ISIS operatives carried out an attack on the village of Kawaji, near Damboa. Seven fighters of militias loyal to the Nigerian army were killed in the attack. The ISIS operatives took two fighters prisoner and later executed them. The operatives also set fire to a number of houses in the village belonging to the militiamen.
Militiamen’s houses in the village of Kawaji that were set on fire by ISIS operatives
(Telegram, June 6, 2021)
- Additional attacks, according to ISIS’s claims of responsibility:
- On June 6, 2021, two rockets were fired at a Nigerian army base in Malam Fatori, in the Nigeria-Chad-Niger tri-border region in northeastern Nigeria. Several soldiers were wounded.
- On May 31, 2021, IEDs were activated against a Nigerian army convoy in the area of the town of Kanamma, in northeastern Nigeria, on the Nigeria-Niger border. Fifteen soldiers were killed or wounded and two armored vehicles were destroyed.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
- ISIS operatives attacked a post of a militia loyal to the Congolese army in the Beni region, about 50 km west of the Congo-Uganda border. The sides exchanged fire. Three militiamen were killed and several others were wounded.
ISIS operatives attacked a Nigerien army camp in the Diffa region, on the Nigerien side of the Niger-Nigeria border. Several soldiers were killed or wounded in the exchange of fire. ISIS operatives set fire to four vehicles and seized three more vehicles, weapons and ammunition.
One of the four vehicles seized by ISIS operatives (Telegram, June 6, 2021)
- ISIS’s West Africa Province released photos documenting the execution of two “spies” who had been abducted in western Niger.
The two “spies” before their execution (Telegram, June 8, 2021)
- Authorities in Burkina Faso announced that 132 people had been shot dead in Solahn, in the northern part of the country. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but it is thought to have been carried out by jihadist operatives operating in the Sahel region, some of whom are loyal to ISIS or Al-Qaeda (AP, June 5, 2021).
- On June 8, 2021, ISIS’s West Africa Province published photos documenting the execution of five “Christian infidels” abducted in the Gao region, in southeastern Mali, about 150 km from the Mali-Niger border, along with photos documenting the execution of a “spy” abducted in the area of the town of Ménaka, near the Mali-Niger border.
Right: Documentation of the execution of the five “infidel Christians.” Left: Documentation of the execution of a “spy” (Telegram, June 8, 2021).
- Sudanese security forces detained nine Al-Qaeda operatives in Sudan on suspicion of planning an attack against the Gulf States. Some of the detainees have Syrian citizenship. The detainees also include a Chadian citizen and a Tunisian citizen (www.arabnews.com, June 8, 2021).
- This week, there has been an increase in the volume of ISIS’s activity in Afghanistan. Most of the attacks took the form of activating IEDs. The targets of the attacks were mainly security forces and their collaborators (“spies,” to quote ISIS), Shiite civilians and infrastructure targets such as oil tankers and high-voltage pylons, as part of what ISIS calls its economic war. Following are several noteworthy attacks, according to ISIS’s claims of responsibility:
- On June 7, 2021, two IEDs were activated against high-voltage pylons in the Parwan region, in the northern periphery of Kabul. The pylons were destroyed.
- On June 7, 2021, an IED was activated against a truck carrying supplies to the Afghan government in Jalalabad. The vehicle was put out of commission. On the same day, an IED was activated against an Afghan police vehicle. One policeman was killed and four others were wounded.
- On June 5, 2021, an IED was activated against an Afghan army vehicle in the Khogyani region, about 130 km southwest of Kabul. All four people on board, including an officer, were wounded.
- On June 4, 2021, an IED was activated against an oil tanker belonging to the Afghan government in the Kunduz region, near the Afghanistan-Tajikistan border. The tanker went up in flames.
- On June 3, 2021, two IEDs were activated against a minibus and another vehicle belonging to Shiites in Kabul. A total of 24 people on board were killed or wounded.
- On June 3, 2021, an IED was activated against the motorcycle of an Afghan government “spy” in Barkandi, in the Kunar Province, about 30 km from the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. The “spy” was wounded.
- On June 2, 2021, a car bomb was detonated against an Afghan Special Forces convoy in Jalalabad. Eight Afghan soldiers were killed and three others were wounded (Telegram, June 2, 2021).
- On June 1, 2021, IEDs were activated against two buses carrying Shiites in Kabul. A total of 33 passengers were killed or wounded.
- On June 1, 2021, an IED was activated against a high-voltage pylon in Kabul. The pylon was destroyed.
- Following a prolonged manhunt, 57-year-old Khalid Kalaing, a mid-level commander of the ISIS-affiliated Maguid group in the Philippines, surrendered to Philippine security forces near the town of Isulan on the island of Mindanao, in the south of the country (eurasiareview.com, June 4, 2021).
- This week, Al-Naba’ weekly published an article covering three terrorist attacks carried out by ISIS operatives in the Poso region of the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. A policeman, a soldier and four Christian residents were killed in the attacks carried out in March and May 2021. It should be noted that the reports about the attacks appeared long after they were carried out, which may indicate the loose ties between ISIS’s operatives in Indonesia and its main media network.
- The incidents are as follows:
- On May 11, 2021, ISIS operatives killed four Christians in the village of Kilimanju. According to ISIS, the four provided the Indonesian security forces with information about the movements of ISIS operatives.
- On March 1, 2021, a soldier was killed in an exchange of fire between ISIS operatives and a special unit of the Indonesian army.
- On March 3, 2021, a policeman was killed in an exchange of fire between ISIS operatives and joint forces of the army and police (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, June 3, 2021).
The article in ISIS’s Al-Naba’ weekly (Al-Naba’, Telegram, June 3, 2021)
- The Counterterrorism Unit detained a 21-year-old Muslim man, a Hungarian citizen, on suspicion of planning to carry out a pipe bomb attack during a mass event in the country. According to information provided by the unit commander, the suspect was in contact with ISIS-affiliated elements (dailynewshungary.com, June 2, 2021).
The United States
Arrest of an American who tried to join the ranks of ISIS in Sinai
- A 20-year-old American citizen was detained on May 28, 2021, at Seattle Airport while en route to Egypt. The detainee, Elvin Hunter Bgorn Williams, planned to travel to the Sinai Peninsula, join the ranks of ISIS and undergo training in ISIS’s training camp. He allegedly went through a process of radicalization via the Internet, pledged allegiance to ISIS’s leader and told his family, friends and other people that he intended to travel abroad to fight in the ranks of ISIS (www.stripes.com, June 2, 2021).
Right: Elvin Hunter Bgorn Williams. Left: Williams pledging allegiance to ISIS’s leader (Seattle District Court, May 28, 2021)
Al-Qaeda announces The War of the Mosques
- The latest issue of the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nafir bulletin featured a letter published in the wake of Operation Guardian of the Walls, announcing the start of The War of the Mosques. In the beginning of the letter, Al-Qaeda congratulates “our residents and jihad fighters in Palestine” on their sacrifice and “martyrdom” and the Islamic nation on its support for the Al-Aqsa Mosque. According to the letter, the operation in Gaza and the uprisings in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria and elsewhere in Israel proved that “waging jihad and fighting against the enemies is the way to revive the Islamic nation, and bring it back to its religion and glory.” It further noted that “rights can only be restored by the might of the weapon and by revolting against the usurping Zionist occupier and its allies [when] each one does what he can, [whether] launching rockets, [carrying out] martyrdom operations, [perpetrating] storming attacks, throwing rocks, taking part in demonstrations and promoting the issue on social-media platforms.”
- The incidents, according to the letter, also proved that what worries the “infidels” the most is the Muslims’ return to their religion and the preoccupation with the problems of the Islamic nation. This was reflected, according to the letter, in the efforts of the President of the United States (“Biden criminal”) to achieve a ceasefire in Gaza, while shedding Muslim blood in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, since he knows that as long as the fighting continues, the Islamic Nation rallies around its jihad fighters.
- The end of the letter notes that although the operation in Gaza had ended, the war against “the Zionist enemy and its allies” continues in Al-Aqsa and on all fronts. The campaign “against the Zionist enemy and its allies” must continue until victory or martyrdom is achieved, focusing on the recruitment of young Muslims who proved in the last round of fighting in the Gaza Strip that they are returning to their religion. The letter ends by announcing The War of the Mosques, led by clerics, jihadi commanders and preachers, intended to save young Muslims from Westernization, led by “the Zionists and their Arab collaborators” (Telegram, June 4, 2021).
Letter published by Al-Qaeda (Telegram, June 4, 2021)
The battle for hearts and minds
Objectives of the media activity in ISIS’s view
- ISIS’s Al-Naba’ weekly continues to deal with media activity. This week, the weekly published an article entitled The Supportive Media (Al-I’lam al-Munassir), which deals with the media activity of those who support ISIS but are not members of the organization. The article emphasizes the importance of the assistance provided by ISIS’s supporters at the media level in light of Western efforts to silence ISIS and prevent the dissemination of its messages. The author stresses that although the West has mobilized its military forces and its experts against ISIS’s media activity, it has failed in its mission, since the organization’s messages continue to be disseminated. According to the author, new supporters are joining the media network and are working alongside ISIS’s official media outlets (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, June 3, 2021).