Spotlight on Global Jihad (March 18-24, 2021)

ISIS’s weapons cache located by the Popular Mobilization forces (Al-Ahed, March 19, 2021)

ISIS’s weapons cache located by the Popular Mobilization forces (Al-Ahed, March 19, 2021)

Vehicles seized by ISIS operatives in the town of Goniri (Telegram, March 21, 2021).

Vehicles seized by ISIS operatives in the town of Goniri (Telegram, March 21, 2021).

Armed and masked operative (center), next to two armed and masked operatives, threatening the Shiites in Pakistan (Telegram, March 19, 2021).

Armed and masked operative (center), next to two armed and masked operatives, threatening the Shiites in Pakistan (Telegram, March 19, 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. In the Deir ez-Zor-Al-Mayadeen region, ISIS operatives continued to attack Kurdish SDF forces. Russian warplanes attacked ISIS targets in the area of the Al-Bishri mountain range, bordering on Al-Raqqah and Deir ez-Zor. In the Al-Badia region, several Syrian soldiers were abducted and later executed. In the Al-Mayadeen region where ISIS operates, an Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander and one of his escorts were killed when their vehicle drove over an IED.
  • Iraq: This week, there was a decrease in the volume of ISIS’s terrorist activity. As part of ISIS’s “economic war,” its operatives blew up two high-voltage pylons in the Al-Khales region, about 10 km northwest of Baqubah. Both pylons were destroyed. The Iraqi army continued its counterterrorism operation in the Qarah Dagh Mountains, about 50 km southwest of the city of Erbil, with air support by the International Coalition against ISIS.
  • Sinai: There was a decrease in ISIS’s terrorist activity in the Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid region. A Bedouin tribal force operating within the Egyptian security forces killed Salim Salma Said al-Hamadin, a senior ISIS commander in the Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid region, and detained his bodyguard.
  • Africa: ISIS’s intensive activity in Africa continues. One noteworthy attack this week was carried out by ISIS operatives against the town of Goniri, near the Nigeria-Niger border. In Mali: ISIS claimed responsibility for ambushing and attacking a Malian army convoy in the Niger-Mali-Burkina Faso tri-border area. A total of 33 soldiers were killed and others were wounded.
  • In the United States: a man opened fire in a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado. At least 10 people were killed, including a police officer. According to preliminary reports, the shooter was Ahmad al-Issa, 21, a Syrian refugee. For the time being, his motives are unclear.
  • This week, threats were made against Shiites in ISIS’s media outlets in Southeast Asia:
    • ISIS’s Pakistan Province released a video entitled The Creators of the Wars (Sunnaa al-Malahem). This is the first video released by the province. The video, in Urdu, deals with Shiites in Pakistan and especially the members of the Hazara Shiite ethnic minority, whom ISIS considers infidels (Telegram, March 19, 2021).
    • Sawt al-Hind, a magazine published by ISIS supporters in India, attacks Shiites and encourages ISIS operatives to carry out attacks against railways and roads in India.
 The Syrian arena
Syrian governorates (freeworldmaps.net)
Syrian governorates (freeworldmaps.net)
The Idlib region
  • This week as well, exchanges of artillery fire continued in the region south and southeast of the rebel enclave in Idlib between the rebel forces headed by HTS, and the Syrian army and the forces supporting it. On March 21, 2021, a rocket was fired from the rebel enclave to the region controlled by the Syrian army east of Aleppo. Six civilians were killed and several others were wounded. Russian fighter jets attacked rebel targets in the northern and western rebel enclave (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, March 21, 2021).
The Deir ez-Zor-Al-Mayadeen region
  • On March 16, 2021, an Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander and one of his escorts were killed when their vehicle drove over an IED in the Al-Mayadeen desert region, east of Deir ez-Zor, where ISIS operates (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, March 16, 2021; Jihan News, March 16, 2021).
  • ISIS operatives continued to attack SDF forces in the region. Following are noteworthy incidents[1]:
  • On two separate occasions (March 22 and 23, 2021), rockets were fired at SDF headquarters in Al-Basira, about 15 km north of Al-Mayadeen. The buildings sustained damage.
    • On March 20, 2021, SDF forces were attacked while they were celebrating Nowruz (the spring festival) in Jazrat Albu Hamid, about 3 km southwest of Al-Raqqah. Three fighters were killed and four others were wounded.
    • On March 17, 2021, an SDF fighter was targeted by gunfire in Shahil, about 10 km north of Al-Mayadeen. He was killed.
The desert region (Badia)
  • Russian fighter jets attacked ISIS targets on the Bishri Mountains, bordering on the Al-Raqqah and Deir ez-Zor provinces (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, March 16, 2021).
  • Following are attacks carried out by ISIS against the Syrian security forces, according to ISIS’s claims of responsibility:
  • On March 21, 2021, a Syrian army outpost in the Salamiyah region, about 30 km southeast of Hama, was attacked. Several soldiers were killed and wounded in the exchange of fire. The ISIS operatives set fire to the outpost and fled.
  • On March 21, 2021, two soldiers were taken prisoner in the Al-Sukhnah Desert, about 120 km southeast of Deir ez-Zor. They were interrogated and then executed. Another soldier was taken prisoner northeast of Qaryatayn, about 70 km southeast of Homs. He was interrogated and then executed.
The Al-Hasakah region
  • An SDF force detained 10 ISIS operatives in the Al-Hawl camp, on the outskirts of Al-Hasakah, where ISIS operatives and their families are held. No details about the detainees were released. It should be noted that since the beginning of 2021, there have been 42 murders in the camp, indicating the shaky security situation there (www.kurdistan24.net, March 19, 2021).
The Iraqi arena
Provinces of Iraq (Wikipedia)
Provinces of Iraq (Wikipedia)
ISIS’s attacks in Iraq[2]
Salah al-Din Province
  • On March 20, 2021, an IED was activated against the vehicle of a foj commander (a foj is a military framework similar to a regiment) in the Iraqi police, in the Yathrib region, about 40 km southeast of Samarra. The commander and two of his escorts were wounded.
  • On March 18, 2021, ISIS ambushed a Popular Mobilization force numbering several vehicles in the Samarra area. Six Popular Mobilization fighters were killed in the exchange of fire. When another force arrived on the scene, an IED was activated against its vehicle, killing or wounding the passengers on board.
  • On March 17, 2021, a force of the Iraqi army and the Popular Mobilization was targeted by gunfire in the Tarmiyah region, about 30 km north of Baghdad. Two fighters were wounded.
Diyala Province
  • On March 21, 2021, the Iraqi police reported that ISIS had abducted three farmers in the northeastern rural area of Baqubah (Al-Sumaria, March 21, 2021).
  • On March 20, 2021, two “polytheist Shiites” were abducted in the Abarah area, in southern Baqubah. They were interrogated and then executed. The day before, an IED was activated against a “polytheist Shiite” in the Abarah area, in south Baqubah. He was wounded.
  • On March 19, 2021, an IED was activated against a police car south of Bahraz, about 2 km southeast of Baqubah. Two policemen were wounded.
  • On March 16, 2021, IEDs were activated close to two high-voltage pylons in the Al-Khales area, about 10 km northwest of Baqubah. The two pylons were destroyed. ISIS noted that this was part of its “economic war” against the Iraqi government (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, March 18, 2021).
Kirkuk Province
  • On March 18, 2021, a joint roadblock of the Iraqi police and the Popular Mobilization forces in the Riyad area, about 50 km southwest of Kirkuk, was targeted by gunfire. Three policemen and Popular Mobilization fighters were killed or wounded.
  • On March 18, 2021, a Popular Mobilization fighter was killed and two policemen were wounded in the Hawija region, about 50 km east of Kirkuk (Popular Mobilization website, March 18, 2021).
  • On March 16, 2021, an IED was activated against Iraqi police forces in the Rashad area, about 40 km southeast of Kirkuk. Several policemen, including an officer, were killed or wounded.
Counterterrorism measures in Iraq
Erbil Province
  • The Iraqi army carried out an extensive counterterrorism operation against ISIS hotspots in the Qarah Dagh Mountains, about 50 km southwest of Erbil. The Iraqi army operation against ISIS, which lasted for 10 days, was carried out with air support by the US-led International Coalition. Coalition aircraft carried out 133 airstrikes. Dozens of ISIS targets were destroyed, including several dozen hiding places and caves. An unknown number of ISIS operatives were killed (Sky News, March 21, 2021).
Kirkuk Province
  • On March 20, 2021, the Iraqi security forces located 30 IEDs in the Rashad area, southeast of Kirkuk (Al-Sumaria, March 20, 2021).
Salah al-Din Province
  • On March 19, 2021, the Popular Mobilization forces located an ISIS weapons cache in the Yathrib area, about 40 km southeast of Samarra (Al-Ahed, March 19, 2021).
ISIS’s weapons cache located by the Popular Mobilization forces (Al-Ahed, March 19, 2021)
ISIS’s weapons cache located by the Popular Mobilization forces (Al-Ahed, March 19, 2021)
The Sinai Peninsula
Senior ISIS operative killed
  • A Bedouin tribal force operating within the Egyptian security forces in the Sinai Peninsula killed Salim Salma Said al-Hamadin, a senior ISIS commander in the Sinai Peninsula, and detained his bodyguard. Salim Salma Said al-Hamadin’s car was ambushed south of Rafah by the Bedouin fighters. He was killed in the exchange of fire and his bodyguard was detained. Al-Hamadin was ISIS’s commander (emir) in the Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid region. According to Egyptian sources, Al-Hamadin was detained in 2011 on suspicion of involvement in terrorist attacks in Sharm al-Sheikh and Taba. He was released after President Mubarak was removed from office. The sources further note that Al-Hamadin managed to attract members of the Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis organization, which constituted the basis for the establishment of ISIS’s Sinai Province (North.Sinai.News Facebook account, March 22, 2021; www.sinaitribes.com, March 22, 2021).
Al-Hamadin, ISIS’s commander (emir) in Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid, who was killed (North.Sinai.News Facebook account, March 22, 2021)
Al-Hamadin, ISIS’s commander (emir) in Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid, who was killed (North.Sinai.News Facebook account, March 22, 2021)
ISIS operative from the Gaza Strip killed
  • Sources in Khan Younis reported the death of Amjad Wael al-Arawi, codenamed Abu Adai al-Ghazawi (i.e., the Gazan), an ISIS operative in the Sinai Peninsula, resident of the Gaza Strip. Al-Arawi was killed while operating as part of ISIS’s Sinai Province (Telegram, March 23, 2021). There were no specific details about where and how he was killed.
ISIS’s activity against the Egyptian army
  • In the recent weeks, a decrease was evident in ISIS’s activity in Rafah and Sheikh Zuweid, which until recently had been ISIS’s main strongholds in the Sinai Peninsula. A noteworthy incident this week was the detonation of an IED near an Egyptian army armored vehicle in Sheikh Zuweid. Seven soldiers were killed or wounded. One of the dead was Naqib (Captain) Hussein Jamal, who belonged to the Egyptian Special Forces (Al-Araby al-Jadeed, March 17, 2021). The IED was probably detonated by ISIS operatives.

Hussein Jamal, killed in Sheikh Zuweid (www.masrtimes.com, March 17, 2021)
Hussein Jamal, killed in Sheikh Zuweid (www.masrtimes.com, March 17, 2021)
Summary of ISIS’s activity around the globe
Summary of ISIS’s activity in the various provinces
  • ISIS released an infographic summing up its activity around the world on March 11-16, 2021. According to the infographic, during this period, ISIS operatives carried out 45 attacks in the various provinces in Asia and Africa, compared to 44 in the previous week. The largest number of attacks were carried out in Iraq (17). Attacks carried out in ISIS’s other provinces: Khorasan, i.e. Afghanistan (9); Syria (9); West Africa (8); and Central Africa (1) (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, March 18, 2021).
  • According to the infographic, 158 people were killed and wounded in those attacks, compared to 127 in the previous week. The largest number of casualties was in West Africa (80). The other casualties were in the following provinces: Khorasan, i.e., Afghanistan (34); Iraq (25); Syria (15); and Central Africa (4) (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, March 18, 2021). The infographic once again indicates the large number of casualties inflicted by ISIS in Africa, especially in Nigeria. In addition, a dramatic increase has been evident this week in the number of ISIS’s attacks and ensuing casualties in Afghanistan.
The infographic as it appeared in ISIS’s Al-Naba' weekly (Al-Naba' weekly, Telegram, March 18, 2021)
The infographic as it appeared in ISIS’s Al-Naba’ weekly
(Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, March 18, 2021)
Africa
Nigeria
  • ISIS’s main attack in Nigeria was carried out against the town of Goniri, in the northeast of the country, near the Nigeria-Niger border. There was an exchange of fire between ISIS operatives and fighters of a militia supporting the Nigerian government. During the attack, ISIS operatives deployed in the town, setting fire to the home of the local governor, several government buildings, and a generator. After the operation, the ISIS operatives withdrew from the town. Two militia fighters were killed in the exchange of fire, and several others were wounded.
 Generator set on fire by ISIS operatives (Telegram, March 21, 2021)  Vehicles seized by ISIS operatives in the town of Goniri (Telegram, March 21, 2021).
Right: Vehicles seized by ISIS operatives in the town of Goniri (Telegram, March 21, 2021). Left: Generator set on fire by ISIS operatives (Telegram, March 21, 2021)
  • In addition, ISIS operatives attacked Nigerian army positions and bases in the northeast of the country. Following are the main events[3]:
    • On March 20, 2021, a Nigerian army post was attacked in Wulgo, on the Nigeria-Cameroon border. There was an exchange of fire, in which one soldier was killed and several others were wounded. ISIS operatives seized weapons and ammunition.
    • On March 20, 2021, a Nigerian army position in Ladari was attacked. Several soldiers were killed or wounded in the exchange of fire.
    • On March 18, 2021, a Nigerian army base was attacked in Damasak, on the Nigerian- Niger border. There was an exchange of fire. Five soldiers were killed and several others were wounded. ISIS operatives set fire to a headquarters of the International Red Cross in the town and two of its vehicles.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • ISIS operatives carried out several attacks against Congolese army forces in the Rwenzori region in the east of the country, not far from the border with Uganda. Several noteworthy incidents:
    • On March 23, 2021, a Congolese army position was attacked. Two soldiers were killed in the attack. ISIS operatives seized weapons and ammunition.
Weapons and ammunition seized by ISIS operatives in an attack in the Rwenzori region (Telegram, March 23, 2021)
Weapons and ammunition seized by ISIS operatives in an attack in the Rwenzori region (Telegram, March 23, 2021)
  • On March 20, 2021, a Congolese army position was attacked. There was an exchange of machine gun fire, in which one soldier was killed. ISIS operatives seized a variety of weapons and ammunition.
  • On March 16, 2021, a Congolese army position was attacked. One soldier was killed in the exchange of fire and several others were wounded. The rest fled. ISIS operatives seized ammunition and equipment.
Mali
  • According to a report by ISIS, its operatives ambushed and fired at a Malian army convoy in Ansongo, near the Niger-Mali-Burkina Faso tri-border area. A total of 33 soldiers were killed in the attack, and several others were wounded. ISIS operatives seized three vehicles, weapons and ammunition. At the same time, the Nigerien government reported on massacres carried out against civilians by jihadist elements, in the tri-border area. At least 58 civilians were reportedly killed (AP, March 17, 2021). The tri-border area is a known stronghold of jihadist elements affiliated with ISIS and Al-Qaeda. It can be assumed that they were behind the massacres. It should be noted that the details of the incidents are not identical to ISIS’s announcement, and these may be different incidents.
Chad
  • ISIS operatives attacked the town of Barkalam, on the Chadian side of the Nigeria-Chad border. Several soldiers were killed or wounded in the exchange of fire. ISIS operatives set fire to a Chadian army headquarters in the town and seized an International Red Cross vehicle.
Niger
  • An attack was carried out against a Nigerien army position in Bosso, in the Diffa region, on the Niger-Nigeria border. Several soldiers were wounded in the exchange of fire.
Asia
Afghanistan
  • This week as well, ISIS operated against the Pakistani security forces, mainly in the Jalalabad region. Most of the attacks took the form of planting IEDs. Following are the main attacks, according to ISIS’s claims of responsibility:
    • On March 21, 2021, IEDs were activated against Afghan security personnel and police. Ten casualties were reported.
    • On March 19, 2021, an IED was activated against an Afghan police vehicle. It was put out of commission and three policemen were wounded.
    • On March 17, 2021, an IED was activated against an Afghan police vehicle. The vehicle was destroyed and four policemen on board were killed. Another IED was detonated against a force that arrived on the scene to evacuate the dead. One policeman was wounded.
The Philippines
  • Philippine security forces liberated four Indonesian hostages who had been abducted about a year ago by operatives of the ISIS-affiliated Abu Sayyaf organization. The four were abducted at sea, in the Tawi Tawi region in the southern Philippines, near Indonesia. First, three hostages were released, followed by the fourth. During the operation, the security forces killed one of the commanders of the Abu Sayyaf organization and captured another operative (ABC News, March 19, 2021; Reuters, March 21, 2021).
Turkey
  • As part of the counterterrorism activity against ISIS operatives in the country, Turkish security forces detained seven suspected ISIS operatives in Şanlıurfa, about 50 km north of the Turkey-Syria border (Anatolia News Agency, March 19, 2021).
The United States
  • On March 23, 2021, an armed man entered a grocery store in Boulder, Colorado, and opened fire. At least 10 people were killed, including a police officer. According to preliminary reports, the shooter was Ahmad al-Aliwi al-Issa, 21, a Syrian refugee. He bought the gun about a week before the shooting. According to police reports, for the time being, his motive is unclear. He acted alone (ABC News, March 24, 2021).
The battle for hearts and minds
Threats against the Shiites
Pakistan
  • ISIS’s Pakistan Province released a video entitled The Creators of the Wars (Sunnaa al-Malahem). This is the first video released by the province. The video, in Urdu, deals with Shiites in Pakistan and especially the members of the Hazara Shiite ethnic minority, who are considered infidels (Telegram, March 19, 2021).
  • In the video, masked and armed ISIS operatives address Pakistani soldiers who, according to the operatives, are acting against Muslims who call for the implementation of Sharia. The video later concentrates on the Al-Zainebiyoun and Al-Fatemiyoun brigades, which comprise Shiites from Pakistan and Afghanistan. Those brigades operate under the command of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Syria, carrying out missions against ISIS operatives, among other things. According to the video, the activity of those brigades in Syria is another reason for ISIS to attack Shiites in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The speaker threatens the Shiites in Pakistan, and especially the Hazara, saying that they will not forget how the fighters of the Al-Zainebiyoun and Al-Fatemiyoun brigades shed the blood of ISIS operatives. He goes on to say that ISIS operatives are lying in wait for them in order to avenge the blood that has been shed. The video ends with documentation of the beheading of members of the Hazara in the Bolan region, in southwestern Pakistan (Telegram, March 19, 2021).
The beginning of the video entitled The Creators of the Wars (in Arabic: Sunnaa al-Malahem) (Telegram, March 19, 2021)
The beginning of the video entitled The Creators of the Wars (in Arabic: Sunnaa al-Malahem) (Telegram, March 19, 2021)
Archival clip in a video showing an Al-Fatemiyoun Brigade fighter waving the brigade flag at a mosque in Aleppo (Telegram, March 19, 2021)  Armed and masked operative (center), next to two armed and masked operatives, threatening the Shiites in Pakistan (Telegram, March 19, 2021).
Right: Armed and masked operative (center), next to two armed and masked operatives, threatening the Shiites in Pakistan (Telegram, March 19, 2021). Left: Archival clip in a video showing an Al-Fatemiyoun Brigade fighter waving the brigade flag at a mosque in Aleppo (Telegram, March 19, 2021)
India
  • Sawt al-Hind, a magazine published by ISIS supporters in India, attacks Shiites in its latest issue (edition number 14), and encourages ISIS operatives to carry out attacks against railways and roads in India (Telegram, March 19, 2021). An article devoted to hatred of the Shiites, entitled Fight the Shiites, Fight for Sharia, states: “The Shiites have expressed hostility to Muslims since the beginning [of Islam] because they associated themselves with the enemies of Islam: the Jews, the Christians and the Magi [members of the Zoroastrian religion that was prevalent in Persia in the beginning of Islam]. Therefore, they [the Shiites] are rightly called the donkeys of the Jews because the Jews rode on their backs in order to weave conspiracies against the Muslims” (Telegram, March 19, 2021).
 The Sawt al-Hind magazine article attacking the Shiites (Telegram, March 19, 2021)
The Sawt al-Hind magazine article attacking the Shiites (Telegram, March 19, 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