Spotlight on Global Jihad (June 9 – 16, 2021)

ISIS operatives preparing to fire mortar shells at an Iraqi army post on the international highway west of the city of Rutba, in western Iraq (Telegram, June 15, 2021)

ISIS operatives preparing to fire mortar shells at an Iraqi army post on the international highway west of the city of Rutba, in western Iraq (Telegram, June 15, 2021)

ISIS operative preparing to fire one of the two mortar shells at an Iraqi army post east of Rutba (Telegram, June 11, 2021)

ISIS operative preparing to fire one of the two mortar shells at an Iraqi army post east of Rutba (Telegram, June 11, 2021)

ISIS operatives setting out to attack the Nigerian army camp in Borno State, in northeastern Nigeria (Telegram, June 15, 2021)

ISIS operatives setting out to attack the Nigerian army camp in Borno State, in northeastern Nigeria (Telegram, June 15, 2021)

ISIS operative during the attack in Borno State (Telegram, June 15, 2021)

ISIS operative during the attack in Borno State (Telegram, June 15, 2021)

Nigerian army tank fleeing during the ISIS attack on the Nigerian army camp in Borno State (Telegram, June 15, 2021)

Nigerian army tank fleeing during the ISIS attack on the Nigerian army camp in Borno State (Telegram, June 15, 2021)

Buildings in the camp set on fire by ISIS operatives (Telegram, June 15, 2021).

Buildings in the camp set on fire by ISIS operatives (Telegram, June 15, 2021).

The squad operatives sitting together next to their weapons (Telegram, June 10, 2021)

The squad operatives sitting together next to their weapons (Telegram, June 10, 2021)

The squad operatives sitting together and preparing food (Telegram, June 10, 2021)

The squad operatives sitting together and preparing food (Telegram, June 10, 2021)

The squad operatives eating together (Telegram, June 10, 2021)

The squad operatives eating together (Telegram, June 10, 2021)

The squad operatives eating together (Telegram, June 10, 2021)

The squad operatives eating together (Telegram, June 10, 2021)

The squad operatives hugging each other, apparently before the (unmasked) suicide bomber leaves for the attack (Telegram, June 10, 2021)

The squad operatives hugging each other, apparently before the (unmasked) suicide bomber leaves for the attack (Telegram, June 10, 2021)

Main events of the past week
  • This week, ISIS’s activity in the various provinces continued at a “routine” level:
    • Syria: In the desert region (Al-Badia), Russian warplanes made over 40 sorties against ISIS targets. However, ISIS’s activity did not stop: This week, ISIS operatives activated two IEDs against a Syrian army convoy east of Salamiyah, about 30 km southeast of the city of Hama, destroying a truck loaded with ammunition. The passengers on board were killed or wounded. In another incident, ISIS operatives activated an IED against a Syrian army vehicle east of Salamiyah. The vehicle was put out of commission, but no casualties were reported. In the Aleppo region, an IED was activated against a Syrian army convoy in the desert, about 70 km southeast of the city of Aleppo. One vehicle was destroyed, an officer was killed and three soldiers were wounded. In the Idlib region, exchanges of artillery fire continued this week between the Syrian army and the forces supporting it, and the rebel forces. The exchanges of fire were concentrated in the southern and western areas of the rebel enclave in Idlib.
    • Iraq: The main event was an attack carried out by ISIS in Jalam Samarra, about 30 km north of the city of Samarra. The incident began when ISIS operatives fired machine guns at an Iraqi police post, killing a policeman. ISIS operatives later fired five mortar shells at the same post, wounding several policemen. Later, when an aid force arrived at the scene, ISIS operatives activated an IED against it, and passengers in one of the vehicles that was hit were wounded. In addition, there has been an increase in the use of mortar shells against Iraqi army positions in the provinces of Al-Anbar and Salah al-Din. Also, at the economic level, there has been an increase in the scope of what ISIS calls its economic war, which is reflected in damage to the state’s infrastructure and property of those who collaborate with it.
    • Sinai: A senior official in ISIS’s Sinai Province was reported killed in an operation by an Egyptian elite unit south of Rafah. Another senior official of the province was arrested in the operation.
    • Afghanistan: This week, the increase in ISIS’s activity in the country continued, similar to recent weeks. The main incident was an attack by ISIS operatives on a building used by workers clearing mines in the Baghlan province, about 180 km north of Kabul. After ISIS operatives took control of the building, they gathered the workers in two rooms and fired machine guns at them. As a result, at least 10 people were killed and others were wounded.
    • Africa: There has been a decline in the volume of ISIS’s activity, with northeastern Nigeria continuing to be the epicenter.
    • Libya: ISIS claimed responsibility for activating an IED against a patrol of General Haftar’s army near the city of Fuqaha, about 380 km south of Sirte, killing a Haftar’s army company commander and his escort. This is the second week in a row that ISIS has claimed responsibility for an attack on General Haftar’s forces in Libya, which could indicate the resumption of ISIS’s activity in Libya, at least in the south of the country.
  • The battle for hearts and minds: This week, the feature article of ISIS’s Al-Naba’ weekly criticized Al-Qaeda, claiming that Al-Qaeda is displaying a conciliatory approach to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, which it describes as an Iranian affiliate, while moving away from the path of jihad.
The Syrian arena
Syrian governorates (freeworldmaps.net)
Syrian governorates (freeworldmaps.net)
The Idlib region
  • During the week, exchanges of artillery fire continued between the Syrian army and the forces supporting it, and the rebel forces. The exchanges of fire focused on the southern, southeastern and southwestern regions of the rebel enclave in Idlib (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights).
The desert region (Al-Badia)
  • On June 11, 2021, Russian fighter jets carried out several airstrikes against ISIS targets in the desert area. Three days later, Russian fighter jets reportedly made 40 sorties against ISIS targets in this region (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, June 14, 2021).
  • On June 10, 2021, ISIS operatives activated an IED against a Syrian army vehicle east of Salamiyah, about 30 km southeast of the city of Hama. As a result, the vehicle was put out of commission. No casualties were reported (Telegram, June 11, 2021).
  • On June 8, 2021, ISIS operatives activated two IEDs against a Syrian army convoy east of Salamiyah, about 30 km southeast of Hama. A truck loaded with ammunition was destroyed and all passengers were killed or wounded (Telegram, June 10, 2021).
Deir ez-Zor-Al-Mayadeen region
  • On June 12, 2021, ISIS operatives fired machine guns at a truck of an SDF-affiliated mukhtar (head of a village) in the Al-Jazra region, west of Deir ez-Zor. The truck was put out of commission (Telegram, June 13, 2021).
  • ISIS’s attempt to establish symbols of governance in the rural area of Deir ez-Zor: On June 8, 2021, it was reported that two days earlier, four militants, apparently ISIS operatives, stopped a vehicle carrying several female workers working in the fields in the Basira region, in the rural area of Deir ez-Zor. They warned the women that they had to wear a niqab (a conservative Islamic garment), otherwise they would be attacked. It was further reported that this was the third incident of its kind occurring recently in the area. This indicates an ISIS attempt to establish symbols of governance in the Deir ez-Zor region, even though the organization does not control the region (Al-Hal, June 8, 2021).
Al-Raqqah region
  • On June 8, 2021, ISIS operatives set fire to land belonging to an SDF fighter east of the Karamah region, about 30 km east of Al-Raqqah. This is year another ISIS attack whose purpose is to wear down its enemies economically, as part of what is referred by ISIS as the “economic war” (Telegram, June 10, 2021).
Aleppo region
  • On June 10, 2021, ISIS operatives activated an IED against a convoy of Syrian army vehicles in the desert, about 70 km southeast of Aleppo. One vehicle was destroyed, an officer was killed and three soldiers were wounded (Telegram, June 11, 2021).
The Iraqi arena
Provinces of Iraq (Wikipedia)
Provinces of Iraq (Wikipedia)
  • This week as well, ISIS continued its “routine” attacks. The most outstanding incident was an attack in Jalam Samarra, about 30 km north of the city of Samarra. In addition, there has been an increase in the use of mortar fire against Iraqi army posts in the provinces of Al-Anbar and Salah al-Din.

ISIS’s attacks in the various provinces of Iraq[1]

Salah al-Din Province
  • On June 11, 2021, ISIS operatives tacked with machine gun fire an Iraqi police post in Jalam Samarra, about 30 km north of the city of Samarra. A policeman was killed and a thermal camera was destroyed. Subsequently, ISIS fired five mortar shells at the same post, and several policemen were wounded. Then, when another force arrived on the scene to provide assistance, ISIS operatives activated an IED against it. As a result, a Humvee was put out of commission and the passengers on board were wounded. In addition, another vehicle was damaged by ISIS machine gun fire.
  • On June 10, 2021, ISIS operatives broke into the house of an Iraqi army intelligence operative in the Al-Sheikh Hamad region, about 20 km north of Baghdad. The intelligence operative was executed by machine gun fire.
  • On June 10, 2021, two mortar shells were fired at an Iraqi army headquarters in the Zarka Bridge region, about 90 km northeast of Samarra. No casualties were reported.
Diyala Province
  • On June 12, 2021, an Iraqi army post east of Miqdadiya, about 40 km northeast of Baqubah, was attacked by machine gun fire. One soldier was killed and two thermal cameras were destroyed.
  • On June 12, 2021, an IED was activated against a Shiite in the Al-Waqf region, northwest of Baqubah. He was wounded.
  • On June 8, 2021, ISIS operatives attacked with machine gun fire two Iraqi army posts west of the Al-Azim region, about 60 km north of Baqubah. As a result, two Humvees were put out of commission, one Iraqi army soldier was killed and two others were wounded. A surveillance thermal camera was destroyed.
  • On June 7, 2021, there was an exchange of machine gun fire between ISIS operatives and Popular Mobilization fighters west of Khanaqin, about 90 km northeast of Baqubah. One Popular Mobilization fighter was killed and another was wounded.
Kirkuk Province
  • On June 12, 2021, Iraqi policemen were ambushed and targeted by machine gun fire in the Riyad region, about 50 km southwest of Kirkuk. A police officer was killed.

Al-Anbar Province

  • On June 14, 2021, three mortar shells were fired at an Iraqi army post on the international highway west of the city of Rutba, in western Iraq. Definite hits were identified.
  • On June 14, 2021, an Iraqi soldier was targeted by machine gun fire on the international highway west of the city of Rutba, in western Iraq. He was killed.
  • On June 10, 2021, an IED was activated against an Iraqi army Humvee east of the city of Rutba. The Humvee was destroyed and those on board were killed and wounded.
  • On June 7, 2021, two mortar shells were fired at an Iraqi army post east of Rutba, in western Iraq. Definite hits were identified.
Nineveh Province
  • On June 12, 2021, ISIS operatives used IEDs to blow up two high-voltage lines south of the city of Mosul. Both lines collapsed. The ISIS operatives then activated an IED against the vehicle of the director of the National Security Apparatus (apparently the regional agency), who was en route to the scene of the incident. The vehicle was put out of commission and those on board were wounded (it is unclear whether the said director was in the car at the time).
More details about ISIS’s “economic war” in Iraq
  • According to a report in ISIS’s Al-Naba’ weekly, on June 4, 2021, ISIS operatives used IEDs to blow up two high-voltage power lines in the Al-Rashad region, about 40 km southwest of the city of Kirkuk. The damaged lines were used to supply electricity along the route between Kirkuk and the Salah al-Din Province. According to ISIS, the attack was carried as part of its “economic war” against the Iraqi government (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, June 10, 2021). It should be noted that it was the latest in a series of similar attacks carried out by ISIS in the past year.
  • ISIS’s Al-Naba’ weekly also reported another incident, which occurred the day before, in which ISIS operatives used an IED to blow up a high-voltage line south of the city of Mosul, on the electricity line between east Mosul and the Mosul Dam (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, June 10, 2021).
  • Another incident in the context of the “economic war” mentioned by ISIS’s Al-Naba’ weekly took place on June 8, 2021, in Jalam Samarra, about 30 km north of the city of Samarra, where ISIS operatives demolished the home and groundwater pump of a “spy” for the Iraqi authorities. They also demolished a generator belonging to his brother, an Iraqi policeman (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, June 10, 2021).
Right: ISIS operative destroying the groundwater pump of a “spy” working for the Iraqi authorities and, on the left, a generator belonging to his brother, an Iraqi policeman, as part of ISIS’s “economic war” (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, June 10, 2021).
Right: ISIS operative destroying the groundwater pump of a “spy” working for the Iraqi authorities and, on the left, a generator belonging to his brother, an Iraqi policeman, as part of ISIS’s “economic war” (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, June 10, 2021).
  • The incidents are indication that ISIS has stepped up its activity in Iraq as part of the “economic war,” in an effort to inflict heavy financial damage on the Iraqi government and its supporters, wearing them down and undermining the stability of the regime.

Counterterrorism in Iraq

Baghdad Province
  • On June 13, 2021, the Iraqi security forces detained ISIS’S mufti of the city of Rawa in the Dura region, south of Baghdad (Al-Sumaria, June 13, 2021).
Salah al-Din Province
  • On June 13, 2021, the Iraqi security forces detained an ISIS operative and cleric who had served as an expert on Islamic law. The detainee, codenamed Abu Rahma, took part in terrorist activity alongside his duties as a cleric (Al-Sumaria, June 13, 2021).
Al-Anbar Province
  • On June 12, 2021, the Iraqi security forces in the Al-Anbar Province prevented a multi-casualty attack after locating an explosive belt in the Fallujah region, 40 km west of Baghdad, which was intended to be used by ISIS in the very near future (Al-Sumaria, June 12, 2021).
Nineveh Province
  • On June 11, 2021, the Iraqi security forces detained two ISIS operatives in the city of Mosul. One of them was in charge of distributing stipends to the families of ISIS operatives in the Nineveh Province. No details about the second detainee were provided (Al-Sumaria, June 11, 2021).
The Sinai Peninsula
  • On June 14, 2021, a senior official of ISIS’s Sinai Province was killed in an operation by an Egyptian elite unit south of Rafah. His name was Abdullah Bariq al-Awassi. Another senior ISIS official was detained in the same operation (sinainewsnow Facebook page, June 14, 2021).
The body of a senior ISIS operative in Sinai (sinainewsnow Facebook page, June 14, 2021).
The body of a senior ISIS operative in Sinai (sinainewsnow Facebook page, June 14, 2021).
Summary of ISIS’s activity in the various provinces
  • Data from an infographic published by ISIS, summarizing its activities around the world between June 3 and June 9, 2021, show that during this period, ISIS carried out 69 attacks in the various provinces in Asia and Africa, compared to 43 attacks in the previous week. The largest number of attacks was carried out in Iraq (23). Attacks carried out in ISIS’s other provinces: West Africa (19); Khorasan, i.e., Afghanistan (12); Syria (7); Sinai (6); Central Africa (1); Libya (1) (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, June 10, 2021).
  • According to the infographic, 252 people were killed or wounded in the attacks, compared to 140 in the previous week. The largest number of casualties was in the Khorasan Province, i.e. Afghanistan (94). The other casualties were in the following provinces: West Africa (70); Iraq (49); Syria (14); Sinai (13); Libya (7); Central Africa (5) (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, June 10, 2021).
  •  The infographic indicates an increase in ISIS’s activity around the world after three weeks in which its activity stabilized at around 40 attacks a week, leading to about 100-150 casualties on average. It is clear from the infographic that the Sinai Province significantly increased its activity during the period in question. There has also been a significant increase in ISIS’s activity in West Africa. In addition, there has been an increase in ISIS’s activity in Afghanistan.
The infographic as it appeared in ISIS’s Al-Naba’ weekly (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, June 10, 2021)
The infographic as it appeared in ISIS’s Al-Naba’ weekly
(Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, June 10, 2021)

Asia[2]

Afghanistan
  • ISIS operatives in the Khorasan Province (i.e., Afghanistan) continued to expand their activity in the country this week, similar to recent weeks. This is taking place at the same time as the pullback of US forces from Afghanistan and the spread of the Taliban’s influence in the country.
  • On June 14, 2021, a sticky bomb was activated against an Afghan police car in the Kama region of the Nangarhar Province, not far from the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. The vehicle was destroyed, one of the passengers was killed and the three others were wounded.
  • On June 12, 2021, two sticky bombs were detonated against two minibuses carrying “polytheist objectors” (i.e., Shiites) in the city of Kabul. A total of 23 passengers were killed or wounded.
  • On June 10, 2021, an IED was activated against a vehicle carrying an Afghan intelligence “spy” in the Jabrahar region of Nangarhar, near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. The vehicle went up in flames (the fate of the “spy” is unknown).
  • On June 10, 2021, an Afghan Intelligence operative was shot dead in the Jabrahar region of Nangarhar, near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
  • On June 9, 2021, an IED was activated against an Afghan police checkpoint in the Jabrahar region of Nangarhar, near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. One policeman was killed.
  • On June 8, 2021, ISIS operatives attacked a building used by workers clearing mines in the Baghlan province, about 180 km north of Kabul. After taking control of the building, they gathered the workers in two rooms, and fired machine guns at them. According to ISIS, more than 60 people were killed or wounded. ISIS operatives seized equipment at the scene (Telegram, June 10, 2021). At least ten people were killed in the attack. The Afghan government accused the Taliban of carrying out the attack, but the latter denied it, whereas ISIS claimed responsibility. According to one of the survivors, before opening fire, the attackers asked the workers if they were members of the Shiite Hazara minority (BBC, June 9, 2021). It should be noted that ISIS targets members of the Hazara ethnic minority in Afghanistan.
  • On June 13, 2021, ISIS operatives activated a sticky bomb attached to the vehicle of a doctor working at a military hospital in the city of Kabul. The vehicle was destroyed and the doctor was killed.

Africa[3]

Nigeria
  • This week, ISIS’s West Africa Province carried out an attack on a base in the region of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State in northeastern Nigeria. In addition, the province carried out a series of ISIS guerrilla attacks against the Nigerian army, especially in the Malam Fatori region, in the Nigeria-Chad-Niger tri-border area within Borno State.
  • On June 13, 2021, ISIS operatives attacked a Nigerian army base near Maiduguri. There were exchanges of fire with various weapons, in which several Nigerian soldiers were killed or wounded, while the rest fled the scene. Later, ISIS operatives set fire to an armored vehicle and seized four vehicles and various types of weapons and ammunition.
  • On June 13, 2021, ISIS operatives attacked a Nigerian army camp in Borno State, in northeastern Nigeria. There were exchanges of fire with various weapons, in which several Nigerian soldiers were killed or wounded, while the rest fled the scene. Later, ISIS operatives set fire to the camp and a Nigerian army tank, and seized an ATV and various types of weapons and ammunition.
ISIS operatives setting out to attack the Nigerian army camp in Borno State, in northeastern Nigeria (Telegram, June 15, 2021)
ISIS operatives setting out to attack the Nigerian army camp in Borno State, in northeastern Nigeria (Telegram, June 15, 2021)
ISIS operative during the attack in Borno State (Telegram, June 15, 2021)
ISIS operative during the attack in Borno State (Telegram, June 15, 2021)
Nigerian army tank fleeing during the ISIS attack on the Nigerian army camp in Borno State (Telegram, June 15, 2021)
Nigerian army tank fleeing during the ISIS attack on the Nigerian army camp in Borno State (Telegram, June 15, 2021)
Buildings in the camp set on fire by ISIS operatives (Telegram, June 15, 2021).
Buildings in the camp set on fire by ISIS operatives (Telegram, June 15, 2021).
  • On June 9, 2021, four mortar shells were fired at a Nigerian army outpost in the town of Malam Fatori. Several Nigerian soldiers were wounded and the outpost was damaged.
  • On June 9, 2021, an IED was activated against a Nigerian army vehicle in the town of Malam Fatori. The vehicle was destroyed and its passengers were killed or wounded.
  • On June 8, 2021, A Nigerian army base was attacked in the town of Dikwa, about 50 km from the Nigeria-Cameroon border, within Borno State in northeastern Nigeria. There were exchanges of fire with various weapons, in which several Nigerian soldiers were killed or wounded.
  • On June 8, 2021, an attack was carried out against a Nigerian army position on the Malam Fatori-Bosso highway, on the Nigerian-Niger border near Lake Chad. There were exchanges of fire with various weapons, in which several Nigerian soldiers were killed or wounded.
  • On June 7, 2021, an IED was activated against a Nigerian Cougar (a type of armored vehicle) in the town of Malam Fatori. The vehicle was destroyed and five soldiers were killed.
Libya
  • ISIS’s Libya Province in the Fezzan region (southern Libya) claimed responsibility this week (for the second week in a row) for an attack on General Haftar’s forces, which could indicate a resumption of ISIS’s activity in Libya, at least in the south of the country.
  • On June 14, 2021, ISIS operatives activated an IED against a patrol of General Haftar’s army in the Al-Haruj Mountains, near the city of Fuqaha, about 380 km south of Sirte. As a result, a vehicle belonging to a Haftar’s army company commander was destroyed, and the commander and an escort were killed.
  •  In addition, ISIS’s Libya Province issued a series of photos of one of its squad operatives. The photos show the squad operatives sitting together next to their weapons and preparing food. One of the operatives appears unmasked – he is the suicide bomber who carried out the suicide bombing attack last week at a General Haftar’s army roadblock north of Sabha (Telegram, June 10, 2021).
The squad operatives sitting together next to their weapons (Telegram, June 10, 2021)
The squad operatives sitting together next to their weapons (Telegram, June 10, 2021)
The squad operatives sitting together and preparing food (Telegram, June 10, 2021)
The squad operatives sitting together and preparing food (Telegram, June 10, 2021)
The squad operatives eating together (Telegram, June 10, 2021)
The squad operatives eating together (Telegram, June 10, 2021)
The squad operatives eating together (Telegram, June 10, 2021)
The squad operatives eating together (Telegram, June 10, 2021)
The squad operatives hugging each other, apparently before the (unmasked) suicide bomber leaves for the attack (Telegram, June 10, 2021)
The squad operatives hugging each other, apparently before the (unmasked) suicide bomber leaves for the attack (Telegram, June 10, 2021)
Somalia
  • On June 12, 2021, ISIS operatives detonated an IED against a police checkpoint in the city of Afgooye, about 20 km northwest of Mogadishu. One policeman was killed and two others were wounded.
The battle for hearts and minds
  • This week, ISIS’s Al-Naba’ weekly devoted its feature article to criticism of Al-Qaeda. According to the article, since the outbreak of the Arab Spring, Al-Qaeda has adopted a conciliatory approach to the Muslim Brotherhood, while moving away from the path of jihad. The organization has become lax, praising silent revolutions at the expense of jihad, and even glorifying Iran’s allies, just as it recently (i.e., in the last round of fighting in Gaza) praised Hamas (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, June 10, 2021).
  • The author of the article claims that Al-Qaeda’s transition from a jihadi organization to an organization that is withdrawing from the principles of jihad is turning it into an organization that is not fundamentally different from other deviant organizations, such as the Taliban in Afghanistan, which – according to the article – maintain ties with Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Hamas. The article ends by claiming that Al-Qaeda has deviated from the principles established by Allah, and that Allah will revive those who stringently adhere to the principles that were established (an allusion to ISIS) (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, June 10, 2021).
  • The article reveals the ideological struggle between ISIS and Al-Qaeda and the competition between the organizations in the Salafist-jihadi space.
The article as it appeared in ISIS’s Al-Naba’ weekly (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, June 10, 2021)
The article as it appeared in ISIS’s Al-Naba’ weekly
(Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, June 10, 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