Spotlight on Global Jihad (March 4-10, 2021)

Rebel artillery fire at the Syrian forces (Al-Ikhbariya al-Suriya channel, March 6, 2021)

Rebel artillery fire at the Syrian forces (Al-Ikhbariya al-Suriya channel, March 6, 2021)

The Iraqi security forces operating in the region southwest of Kirkuk (Al-Sumaria, March 3, 2021)

The Iraqi security forces operating in the region southwest of Kirkuk (Al-Sumaria, March 3, 2021)

The Iraqi security forces operating in the region southwest of Kirkuk (Al-Sumaria, March 3, 2021)

The Iraqi security forces operating in the region southwest of Kirkuk (Al-Sumaria, March 3, 2021)

ISIS operatives attacking the town in northeastern Congo.

ISIS operatives attacking the town in northeastern Congo.

The scene of the car bomb explosion in Mogadishu (Shahada News Agency, which is affiliated with the Al-Shabaab movement, March 6, 2021)

The scene of the car bomb explosion in Mogadishu (Shahada News Agency, which is affiliated with the Al-Shabaab movement, March 6, 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. The Syrian army forces received Russian air support. In the Deir ez-Zor-Al-Mayadeen region, ISIS operatives continued to attack Kurdish SDF forces. The most prominent this week was an attack against a position near Al-Shahil, about 10 km north of Al-Mayadeen, in which seven SDF fighters were killed and five wounded. In the desert region (Al-Badia), ISIS operatives attacked a Syrian army outpost east of Salamiyah, about 30 km southeast of the city of Hama. Several soldiers were wounded in the ensuing exchange of fire, and ISIS operatives set fire to the outpost. In the Al-Hasakah region, a senior ISIS figure was killed in a joint operation by International Coalition forces and SDF forces.
  • Iraq: During the week, there was an increase in the number of attacks carried out by ISIS against the Iraqi security forces and the forces supporting them. The attacks focused mainly on the Diyala and Salah al-Din provinces, and most of them took the form of attacking positions and activating IEDs. The Iraqi security forces and the forces supporting them continued their counterterrorism activity against ISIS infrastructure and operatives throughout the country.
  • Africa: In Nigeria, ISIS operatives continue to carry out attacks against the Nigerian army in the northeast of the country. The most noteworthy attack of the week was in the area near Wulgo, on the Nigeria-Cameroon border, when ISIS operatives detonated two car bombs against a group of soldiers. About 30 soldiers were killed or wounded. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, clashes continued between ISIS operatives and Congolese soldiers and militias supporting the Congolese army in the northeast of the country. Niger: ISIS operatives attacked a local police station in the Diffa region, on the Niger-Nigeria border. Several policemen were killed or wounded. Somalia: The Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Shabaab movement claimed responsibility for two car bomb attacks in the port area of Mogadishu and an attack on the central prison in the city of Bosaso, in the northeast of the country.
  • Afghanistan: ISIS continued to carry out attacks against security forces and civilians affiliated with the government. Most of the attacks took place in Jalalabad.
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 (Al-Ikhbariya al-Suriya; Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, March 2021). In support of the Syrian army, Russian fighter jets carried out airstrikes against rebel targets north of Idlib (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, March 5, 2021). No casualties were reported. On March 9, 2021, the rebel forces fired rockets, killing three soldiers and wounding 10 others (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, March 9, 2021).
Rebel artillery fire at the Syrian forces (Al-Ikhbariya al-Suriya channel, March 6, 2021)
Rebel artillery fire at the Syrian forces (Al-Ikhbariya al-Suriya channel, March 6, 2021)
The Deir ez-Zor-Al-Mayadeen region
  • During the week, ISIS’s terror activity against the SDF continued. Most of the attacks consisted of gunfire at SDF positions, vehicles and personnel. The incidents focused on the Shahil area, about 10 km north of Al-Mayadeen. Following are noteworthy incidents[1]:
    • On March 7, 2021, a commanding officer in the SDF forces was targeted by gunfire in the Diban area, about 3 km east of Al-Mayadeen. He was killed.
    • On March 6, 2021, an SDF position was targeted by machine gun fire and rockets. One SDF fighter was killed and two others were wounded. An SDF patrol arriving at the scene to provide assistance was ambushed and attacked by ISIS. Six SDF fighters were killed and six others were wounded. Three days earlier, (March 3, 2021), an SDF vehicle was targeted by machine gun fire in the same area.
ISIS operatives attacking an SDF position in Shahil (Telegram, March 6, 2021)
ISIS operatives attacking an SDF position in Shahil (Telegram, March 6, 2021)
  • On March 2, 2021, an SDF command post was targeted by machine gun fire and RPG rockets. Several fighters were wounded and the building sustained damage.
The desert region (Al-Badia)
  • This week, clashes between ISIS operatives and Syrian army forces continued, mainly in the Salamiyah region, about 30 km southeast of Hama. On March 4, 2021, ISIS operatives attacked a Syrian army outpost. Several soldiers were wounded in the exchange of fire. After the other soldiers fled, the operatives set fire to the outpost. ISIS released photos showing a Syrian army vehicle that was destroyed (Telegram, March 6, 2021). No casualties were mentioned. On March 7, 2021, ISIS operatives activated an IED against a Syrian army tank east of Salamiyah. The tank was destroyed and the soldiers inside were killed or wounded.
Syrian army ATV destroyed in the Salamiyah area (Telegram, March 6, 2021)
Syrian army ATV destroyed in the Salamiyah area (Telegram, March 6, 2021)
Al-Hasakah region
  • As part of the counterterrorism activity of the US-led International Coalition against ISIS, forces were dropped in the Al-Hasakah rural area, in collaboration with the Kurdish SDF. Sabah Ibrahim, AKA Abu Osama Ibrahim, an Iraqi ISIS operative who served as the governor of ISIS’s Desert Region (Wali al-Badia, in the Arabic original), was killed in the operation (Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, March 7, 2021).
  • As part of an arrangement with tribal leaders in the Deir ez-Zor region, the Kurdish forces released about 300 wives and children of ISIS operatives from the Al-Hawl camp, situated on the outskirts of Al-Hasakah (VOA, March 5, 2021).
  • Three truck drivers, abducted by ISIS on the outskirts of Al-Hasakah on March 4, 2021, were released on March 7, 2021, in return for ransom (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, March 7, 2021).
The Iraqi arena
Provinces of Iraq (Wikipedia)
Provinces of Iraq (Wikipedia)
ISIS’s attacks in the various provinces in Iraq[2]
Diyala Province
  • On March 4, 2021, an Iraqi police patrol was targeted by gunfire northeast of Baqubah. One policeman was wounded and two police vehicles were put out of commission.
  • On March 4, 2021, an Iraqi army vehicle was attacked in the Jalula area, about 75 km northeast of Baqubah. An officer with the rank of major and a soldier were wounded. A day earlier, Iraqi soldiers were targeted by gunfire in the same area. Four soldiers were killed or wounded.
  • On March 3, 2021, two Iraqi police posts were targeted by gunfire in the Mutaybijah area, about 60 km north of Baqubah. Five policemen were killed and five others were wounded. A vehicle was put out of commission and a thermal camera was destroyed.
  • On March 3, 2021, a rocket was fired at the Shiite village of Zarkush, about 65 km northwest of Baqubah. Apparently, there were no casualties. Property was damaged.
Salah al-Din Province
  • On March 7, 2021, an Iraqi army patrol was targeted by gunfire in the Tarmiyah area, about 30 km north of Baghdad. Four soldiers were killed and wounded. One of the dead was an officer with the rank of captain, who was in charge of intelligence in a foj (military unit similar to a regiment) of the Iraqi army 54th Brigade.
  • On March 6, 2021, a Popular Mobilization camp south of Tikrit was attacked. Several fighters were wounded. A thermal camera was destroyed.
  • On March 4, 2021, an IED was activated against a vehicle of the counterterrorism unit in the Hamrin area, about 60 km northwest of Baqubah. The vehicle was destroyed and the passengers on board were killed and wounded. A day earlier, an IED was activated against an Iraqi army foot patrol in the same area, killing one soldier and wounding several others.
  • On March 3, 2021, a Popular Mobilization vehicle was targeted by gunfire in the Mashahida area, about 20 km north of Baghdad. The vehicle was put out of commission and two Popular Mobilization fighters were wounded. A day earlier, an Iraqi army camp in the same area was targeted by machine gun fire. One soldier was killed and another was wounded.
Kirkuk Province
  • Mortar shells were fired at an Iraqi army camp in the Mahlabiya area, about 40 km southeast of Mosul. There were no details on either casualties or damage.
NATO forces activity in Iraq
  • Lt.-Gen. Per Olsen, commander of NATO Mission Iraq (NMI), said that NATO forces had arrived in Iraq following a request by the Iraqi government. According to Lt.-Gen. Olsen, NATO forces are operating in collaboration with the government to defend the country. However, they will not expand their missions unless the official authorities in Iraq ask them to do so. He further noted that NATO forces’ mission is to provide security and military consultation; therefore, they would not take part in the current military operations in Iraq against ISIS (alarabiya.net, March 4, 2021).
Iraqi security forces’ counterterrorism measures in Iraq
Kirkuk Province
  • On March 8, 2021, Iraqi police forces located four ISIS hiding places and two IEDs in Wadi Zaghaytun, about 50 km southwest of Kirkuk (Al-Sumaria, March 8, 2021).
  • On March 4, 2021, the Iraqi security forces operating in the mountainous region in the eastern Kirkuk Province (bordering on the Diyala Province) located about 20 ISIS hiding places, four tunnels, 10 explosive belts, four canisters of C4 plastic explosives, and several dozen IEDs (Al-Sumaria, March 4, 2021).
  • On March 3-4, 2021, as part of the Iraqi security forces’ extensive activity, the Popular Mobilization forces destroyed several ISIS guest houses in the Hamrin Mountains, southwest of Kirkuk, and killed several ISIS operatives in Wadi al-Shay, in the southern part of the province (Al-Sumaria, March 4, 2021).
Nineveh Province
  • On March 9, 2021, the US-led International Coalition fighter warplanes attacked an ISIS target in the Al-Ghayta region, about 70 km south of Mosul. Ten ISIS operatives were reportedly killed (Iraqi News Agency, March 9, 2021).
  • On March 4, 2021, the Iraqi security forces detained two ISIS operatives in the desert region west of Mosul. The two detainees had served in ISIS’s War Spoils Office (Diwan al-Ghanaim) (Al-Sumaria, March 4, 2021).
Al-Anbar Province
  • On March 8, 2021, the Iraqi army located two ISIS guest houses south of Al-Qaim, in western Iraq (Al-Sumaria, March 8, 2021).
Baghdad Province
  • In the Al-Dura neighborhood, in southern Baghdad, the Iraqi security forces detained Ashur al-Naimi (commonly referred to as Ashur the Butcher), who had been in charge of ISIS’s executions in the Fallujah region. The detainee has been charged with dozens of terror crimes against Iraqi civilians and security personnel (Iraqi News Agency, March 7, 2021).
ISIS’s activity around the globe[3]
Summary of ISIS’s activity in the various provinces
  • ISIS released an infographic summing up its activity around the world on February 25-March 3, 2021. According to the infographic, during this period, ISIS operatives carried out 47 attacks in the various provinces in Asia and Africa, compared to 51 in the previous week. The largest number of attacks were carried out in West Africa (16). Attacks carried out in ISIS’s other provinces: Iraq (14); Khorasan, i.e. Afghanistan (6); Syria (5); Central Africa (5); and in Sinai (1) (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, March 4, 2021).
  • According to the infographic, 169 people were killed and wounded in those attacks, compared to 175 in the previous week. The largest number of casualties was in West Africa (55). The other casualties were in the following provinces: Central Africa (50); Iraq (31); Khorasan, i.e., Afghanistan (14); Syria (13); and in Sinai (6) (Naba’ weekly, Telegram, March 4, 2021). The infographic indicates that the number of casualties inflicted by ISIS in Africa continues to rise at the expense of Syria and Iraq.
The infographic as it appeared on ISIS’s Al-Naba' weekly (Al-Naba' weekly, Telegram, March 4, 2021)
The infographic as it appeared on ISIS’s Al-Naba’ weekly
(Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, March 4, 2021)
Africa
Nigeria
  • This week as well, clashes continued between Nigerian army forces and ISIS operatives, mainly in the northeast of the country. The most noteworthy attacks this week were carried out on March 8, 2021, when the Nigerian army carried out an extensive attack against ISIS operatives near Wulgo, on the Nigeria-Cameroon border, in Borno State, in the northeast of the country. There was a heavy exchange of fire. During the clashes, two car bombs were detonated by ISIS suicide bombers among a group of Nigerian soldiers. In the car bomb blast, about 30 soldiers were killed or wounded and four Nigerian army vehicles were destroyed. According to ISIS’s claim of responsibility, one of the suicide bombers was codenamed Abu Bakr al-Siddiq (after the first caliph in Islam) and the other was codenamed Bana Jund Allah.
  • Other notable incidents are as follows[4]:
    • On March 7, 2021, a Nigerian army patrol was ambushed and shot at on the Jakana-Mainok road, about 200 km west of the Nigeria-Cameroon border. There were exchanges of fire and several soldiers were killed or wounded.
    • On March 4, 2021, an IED was activated against a Nigerian army foot patrol in Malam Fatori, in northeastern Nigeria. Five Nigerian soldiers were killed or wounded.
    • On March 3, 2021, an attack was carried out on a Nigerian army camp in Ngala, about 4 km west of the Nigeria-Cameroon border. There were exchanges of fire and several Nigerian soldiers were killed or wounded.
    • On March 2, 2021, a Nigerian army camp was attacked in Gajiram, about 120 km southwest of the Nigeria-Chad-Cameroon tri-border area. There were exchanges of fire and a number of soldiers were killed or wounded.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • ISIS operatives continued to attack Congolese soldiers and the militias supporting the Congolese army. This week, ISIS operatives attacked a town in the Irumu region, about 80 km west of the Congo-Uganda border. There was an exchange of fire between ISIS operatives and Congolese soldiers and militias supporting the Congolese army, during which at least seven soldiers were killed. The rest fled. Before withdrawing, ISIS operatives seized weapons and ammunition.
Weapons and ammunition seized by ISIS (Telegram, March 6, 2021)  ISIS operatives attacking the town in northeastern Congo.
Right: ISIS operatives attacking the town in northeastern Congo. Left: Weapons and ammunition seized by ISIS (Telegram, March 6, 2021)
Niger
  • ISIS operatives attacked a local police station in the Diffa region, on the Niger-Nigeria border. There were exchanges of fire and several policemen were killed or wounded. ISIS operatives seized two vehicles, weapons and ammunition.
Weapons and ammunition seized by ISIS (Telegram, March 5, 2021).    Two Nigerien police vehicles seized by ISIS.
Right: Two Nigerien police vehicles seized by ISIS. Left: Weapons and ammunition seized by ISIS (Telegram, March 5, 2021).
Somalia
  • The Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Shabaab movement in Somalia claimed responsibility for two terrorist attacks carried out on March 5, 2021:
    • Car bomb explosion: In the port area of Mogadishu, against a group of fighters of the militias collaborating with the Somali authorities. According to the organization, 25 fighters were killed in the attack and 37 were wounded. According to official sources in Somalia, at least 20 people were killed and about 30 were wounded in a car bomb blast in the port area (France 24, March 6, 2021).
    • Attack on the central prison in the city of Bosaso, in the northeast of the country. According to reports, over 400 prisoners were liberated in the attack (Shahada News Agency, which is affiliated with the Al-Shabaab movement, March 6, 2021). According to Somali security sources, Somali security forces repelled an attack against the prison in Bosaso, and some of the attackers were arrested (alsomal.net, March 5, 2021). Reports by the authorities did not mention the liberation of the prisoners, but a prison warden told Reuters that most of the prisoners had escaped. According to the Somali police, at least seven policemen were killed in the attack (Reuters, March 5, 2021).
Asia
Afghanistan
  • This week, ISIS operatives continued their terrorist activity against members of the security forces and civilians affiliated with the authorities. The incidents took the form of planting IEDs and most of them were carried out in Jalalabad. Following are a number of noteworthy incidents[5]:
    • On March 6, 2021, an IED was activated against the vehicle of the head of a neighborhood in Jalalabad. He was killed and his vehicle was destroyed.
    • On March 4, 2021, an IED was activated against the car of a woman who works with the Afghan intelligence services in Jalalabad. She was killed and her car was destroyed.
    • On March 3, 2021, an IED was activated against the vehicle of two “spies” of the Afghan intelligence services in the western part of the Nangarhar Province. Both “spies” were wounded and the vehicle was put out of commission.
Pakistan
  • On March 3, 2021, two Pakistani government intelligence agents were targeted by gunfire in Peshawar, near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. Both of them were killed.
Counterterrorism activity against ISIS
Turkey
  • As part of the ongoing counterterrorism activity of the Turkish authorities, Turkish security forces in Istanbul arrested 10 suspected ISIS operatives, all of whom are foreign nationals. They were suspected of involvement in ISIS activity in Syria and Iraq (Anatolia News Agency, March 3, 2021).
Libya
  • After an extensive manhunt that lasted several days, members of the Libyan government’s counterterrorism unit arrested two senior ISIS figures who had found refuge in the Tripoli region. One of them is Abu Muadh al-Iraqi, who was previously subordinate to ISIS’s commander in southern Libya (i.e., the Fezzan Province) (Anatolia News Agency, March 5, 2021).
Europe
Belgium
  • Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo announced that Belgium is prepared to accept Belgian nationals currently detained in the Al-Hawl detention camp (located in Syria, about 40 km east of Al-Hasakah). The Belgian nationals are mothers and children, apparently family members of the ISIS operatives detained in the camp. It should be noted that many European countries refuse to accept the detainees in the camp, which is held by the SDF forces (Reuters, March 4, 2021).

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

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

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

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