Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi during his speech (CBC Egypt YouTube channel, March 9, 2023)
Warehouses, tunnels, and hiding places of ISIS located by the Egyptian army in Sinai (Egyptian Army Spokesman’s Twitter account, March 9, 2023)
The suicide bomber (Telegram, March 9, 2023)
ISIS operative shooting at the engineer (Telegram, March 10, 2023)
Main events of the week
- This week, the center of ISIS activity was in Afghanistan, Syria, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In the other areas, there was relatively little activity.
- Afghanistan: An ISIS operative wearing an explosive belt blew himself up at the headquarters of the Balkh province in northern Afghanistan, killing the province governor and two other civilians.
- Syria: Three young men who were gathering truffle mushrooms southeast of Aleppo were executed, apparently by ISIS operatives, and 26 others, including women, were kidnapped and taken to an unknown location.
- The Democratic Republic of the Congo: ISIS operatives killed dozens of Christian citizens in several villages near the border with Uganda.
- Nigeria: Dozens of terrorist operatives, apparently from ISIS, attacked and killed 36 fishermen in northeastern Nigeria.
- The battle for hearts and minds: According to the editorial of ISIS’s Al-Naba weekly, the lack of significant aid from international humanitarian organizations to Syria is due to the lack of interest of international (“infidel”) parties to help the citizens of Syria. According to the writer, Muslims in general and in Syria, in particular, must unite around jihad and Islamic law (Sharia) in order to defend and protect themselves and not rely on others.
The Sinai Peninsula
- On March 7, 2023, there was an exchange of fire between an Egyptian army force and militants, apparently ISIS operatives, in Al-Tur, in South Sinai, about 70 km northwest of Sharm el-Sheikh. One soldier was wounded. The militants fled the scene (Aly Hussin Mahdy Twitter account, March 7, 2023).
- On March 9, 2023, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi gave a speech, during which he officially revealed for the first time details about the cooperation between Israel and Egypt regarding the fight against ISIS. El-Sisi noted that in 2011, he asked for permission from Israel to send Egyptian army forces to Al-Arish, Rafah, and Sheikh Zuweid in the Sinai Peninsula to fight terrorism. He said Israel approved after he reported the size of the forces. El-Sisi e added that the size of Egyptian forces sent into the Sinai Peninsula had increased year by year due to the security challenges during the nine years of fighting against ISIS in the Sinai region (CBC Egypt YouTube channel, March 9, 2023).
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi during his speech
(CBC Egypt YouTube channel, March 9, 2023)
- The Egyptian army released a video summarizing the Egyptian army’s achievements against ISIS (it does not state since when, but it is apparently from 2014). According to the data published, the army located, neutralized, and destroyed 273,149 warehouses, tunnels, and hiding places; 1,119 all-terrain vehicles; 2,344 motorcycles; 1,369 weapons; 8,831 IEDs; 1,890 ISIS mobile devices and computers; and a large quantity of varied ammunition. The video ends with the statement that life in Sinai is returning to normal (Egyptian Army Spokesman’s Twitter account, March 9, 2023)
Warehouses, tunnels, and hiding places of ISIS located by the Egyptian army in Sinai (Egyptian Army Spokesman’s Twitter account, March 9, 2023).
The Syrian arena 
Map of Syria’s provinces (freeworldmaps.net)
Continued activity against people collecting mushrooms
- On March 9, 2023, gunmen, apparently ISIS operatives, kidnapped two residents who were collecting truffle mushrooms in the desert region southeast of Al-Raqqah (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, March 9, 2023).
- On March 11, 2023, an attack was carried out against residents collecting truffle mushrooms in the Khanaser Desert, about 50 km southeast of Aleppo, near positions of Iranian-backed militias. Three young men were executed on the spot and 26 others, including women, were kidnapped and taken to an unknown location (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, March 11, 2023). Thus, ISIS activity against civilians collecting mushrooms in Syria seems to have also expanded to the south of the Aleppo district, after it was recently focused on the Palmyra and Al-Sukhnah regions and the western Deir ez-Zor Province.
Deir ez-Zor-Al-Mayadeen region
- On March 9, 2023, an SDF fighter was targeted by gunfire, apparently by ISIS, on the outskirts of the town of Shahil, about 9 km north of Al-Mayadeen. He was wounded (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, March 9, 2023).
The Iraqi arena
Provinces of Iraq (Wikipedia)
Estimation of ISIS presence in Iraq
- On March 12, 2023, Major General Qais al-Muhammadawi, the deputy head of the Joint Forces Command, which coordinates the operations between the Iraqi security forces and the US-led Global Coalition, announced that there were only 400-500 ISIS fighters in Iraq, operating in 3-4 provinces in the country. Al-Muhammadawi added that ISIS had lost the ability to recruit new operatives into its ranks (Al-Arabiya, March 12, 2023). This update explains the decrease in the scope of ISIS’s activity in Iraq in recent months. In this context, it should be noted that according to data published about a year ago (in February 2022) by the UN Security Council, the number of ISIS operatives and supporters in Iraq and Syria was estimated at about 5,000-7,000.
ISIS attacks by province
Salah al-Din Province
- On March 9, 2023, a Shiite (“rejectionist”) civilian was kidnapped and executed near the Tuz Khormato region, about 160 km north of Baghdad (Telegram, March 10, 2023).
- On March 7, 2023, an IED was activated against a Popular Mobilization vehicle about 70 km south of Kirkuk. One fighter was killed and others were wounded (Telegram, March 8, 2023).
- On March 12, 2023, forces of the Iraqi Counterterrorism Apparatus, who were dropped from a helicopter or advanced on foot, operated against an ISIS target in the Al-Qaim region, near the Iraq-Syria border. A total of 22 ISIS operatives, including commanders, were killed. It was noted that most of the operatives were carrying explosive belts and some of them activated them when the exchange of fire began. Equipment, weapons, computers, and telephones were found at the site (Iraqi News Agency, March 12, 2023).
Salah al-Din Province
- On March 8, 2023, Iraqi Air Force F-16 planes acting on intelligence carried out three airstrikes against an ISIS target in the Tuz Khormato region. A force of the Iraqi Counterterrorism Apparatus also operated in the region. Three ISIS operatives were killed. Weapons, mobile phones, equipment, documents, and a motorcycle were found at the scene (Al-Sumaria and the Iraqi News Agency, March 8, 2023).
Summary of ISIS’s activity in the various provinces
- An infographic published by ISIS’s Al-Naba weekly, summing up ISIS’s activity around the globe on March 2-8, 2023, indicates that the organization carried out 19 attacks in its various provinces (compared to 16 in the previous week). The largest number of attacks was carried out by the provinces of Iraq and West Africa (5 in each). Attacks carried out in the other provinces: Central Africa (2); Mozambique (2); Syria (2); Somalia (1); Pakistan (1); and Khorasan (Afghanistan) (1). A total of 76 people were killed and wounded in the attacks, compared to 138 in the previous week. The largest number of casualties was in the Pakistan Province (24). The other casualties were in the following provinces: West Africa (18); Khorasan (Afghanistan) (8); Iraq (8); Mozambique (6); Syria (5); Central Africa (4); and Somalia (3) (Al- Naba weekly, Telegram, March 9, 2023).
Summary of ISIS attacks (Al-Naba, Telegram, March 9, 2023)
ISIS attacks by week (according to ISIS data)
- On March 14, 2023, two Nigerian army “spies” were kidnapped and shot to death in the Lake Chad area, in Borno State, in northeastern Nigeria (Telegram, March 14, 2023).
- On March 8, 2023, dozens of terrorist operatives, apparently of ISIS, who were riding on motorcycles, attacked fishermen in the village of Mukdolo, about 20 km north of Dikwa, about 80 km northeast of Maiduguri, in northeastern Nigeria. A total of 36 fishermen were shot dead (Zagazola, March 8, 2023; Naija Gists, March 14, 2023).
- On March 8, 2023, an attack was carried out against the headquarters of the Nigerian Police in the town of Magumeri, about 40 km northwest of Maiduguri. One policeman was killed. Two vehicles belonging to an international organization were put out of commission (Telegram, March 10, 2023).
- On March 7, 2023, three IEDs were activated against foot and motorized patrols of the Nigerian army on the Maiduguri-Damboa road, about 80 km southwest of Maiduguri. Several soldiers were killed and others were wounded (Telegram, March 8, 2023).
Hundreds of Boko Haram operatives surrender to the Nigerian army due to ISIS attacks
- On March 13, 2023, it was reported that 180 Boko Haram operatives and their families surrendered to Nigerian army forces northeast of Geidam, in the northeast of the country (Zagazola, March 13, 2023). The background was the escape of Boko Haram operatives and their families from repeated attacks by ISIS. In the week preceding the surrender, approximately 300 Boko Haram operatives were killed in attacks by ISIS operatives in Borno State, in the northeast of the country (Zagazola, March 11, 2023).
The Democratic Republic of the Congo
- On March 14, 2023, an attack was carried out against the Christian village of Mondiba in the Beni region, about 50 km west of the border with Uganda. A total of 15 civilians, including the head of the village, were killed. A church and property were set on fire (Telegram, March 14, 2023).
- On March 12, 2023, an attack was carried out against the Christian village of Mabindano and other villages in its vicinity, in the Beni region. Over 30 civilians, including the head of one of the villages, were kidnapped and killed (Telegram, March 14, 2023).
- On March 11, 2023, an attack was carried out against the Christian village of Kirindira, in the Beni region, about 50 km west of the border with Uganda. Over 20 civilians were murdered. Several houses, vehicles and four motorcycles were set on fire (Telegram, March 12, 2023).
- On March 10, 2023, an attack was carried out against a Congolese army compound in the village of Lusilosi, in the Beni region, west of the border with Uganda. One soldier was killed. Three assault rifles and ammunition were seized (Telegram, March 10, 2023).
- On the evening of March 8, 2023, an ISIS attack was carried out against the Christian village of Mukondi, on the Butembo-Beni road, about 50 km west of the border with Uganda. At least 38 civilians were killed. Another eight civilians were killed in the nearby village of Mausa (Africa News, March 9, 2023). ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack (only on the village of Mukondi) and announced that at least 35 Christian citizens were killed by gunfire and stabbings and several others were wounded. Apart from that, Christian homes and property were set on fire while some of their property was seized (Amaq, Telegram, March 10, 2023).
- On March 7, 2023, an ambush was set for a number of Christian citizens near the village of Kebasioa, in the Beni region. Three of them were kidnapped and executed (Telegram, March 8, 2023).
- On March 6, 2023, an IED was activated against a Mozambican army patrol between the villages of Namcol and Mandaba, in the Muidumbe area, in the Cabo Delgado province in the northeast of the country. Two soldiers were wounded (Telegram, March 13, 2023). The claim of responsibility was released considerably late (a week after the attack).
- On March 14, 2023, a car bomb driven by a suicide bomber exploded near a guest house where Somali government officials were staying in the city of Bardera, about 330 km west of Mogadishu. Most parts of the guest house collapsed. Five security guards were killed and 11 people, including the governor of the Gedo district in southwestern Somalia, were wounded. The Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack (Barron’s, March 14, 2023).
- On March 7, 2023, Al-Shabaab operatives attacked an army base located about 60 km west of the port city of Kismayo, in southwestern Somalia. The attack began with the detonation of a car bomb, followed by shooting and detonation of IEDs. Al-Shabaab operatives, who cut off the communication lines, advanced into the base. The Somali army and local militia fighters who were there eventually repelled the attackers causing them heavy losses. An official source stated that during the attack, five Somali soldiers were killed and 10 wounded. On the other hand, Al-Shabaab claimed that its operatives had killed 89 Soldiers (VOA and Reuters, March 7, 2023).
Clashes between ISIS and Al-Qaeda
- On March 1, 2023, an exchange of fire took place for several hours between ISIS operatives and a large number of Al-Qaeda operatives, who tried to advance towards ISIS positions near the town of Asil, about 135 km north of the Mali-Niger border. A total of 30 Al-Qaeda operatives were killed, dozens were wounded, and one operative was captured by ISIS. In addition, 11 vehicles as well as weapons and ammunition were seized (Telegram, March 10, 2023). It should be noted that the claim of responsibility was released after a considerable delay, only nine days after the attack.
Ghana and the Ivory Coast
Annual US-led exercise in the fight against terrorism in Africa
- On March 10, 2023, the US Special Operations Command Africa (SOCAFRICA) announced that an annual special operations exercise led by the US Army’s Africa Command is currently underway and will last for two weeks. The purpose of the exercise is to strengthen countries in Africa in cooperation with other international Special Forces and also to accelerate the collective ability to adapt and overcome the threat of terrorism (SOCAFRICA Twitter account, March 10, 2023).
- A total of approximately 1,300 soldiers from 29 countries, including several African countries, take part in the exercise. This exercise is being carried out in light of the increase in jihadist terrorist activity related to Al-Qaeda and ISIS, which has resulted in the death of thousands of people, caused the displacement of millions of citizens from their homes, and created crises in several countries (AP, March 10, 2023).
- It should be noted that Ghana shares a common border with Burkina Faso in its northern part, while the Ivory Coast shares a common border with Burkina Faso and Mali in its northern part. In our assessment, the choice of these countries to carry out the exercise is due to concern from the spillover of Islamic terrorism from Burkina Faso and Niger to these countries.
- On March 9, 2023, Moroccan security forces announced the arrest of three members of an ISIS terrorist cell. The three, aged 19 to 29, pledged allegiance to the organization and planned to carry out attacks in the country and then flee it to join ISIS camps in the Sahel region. Cold weapons were found in the homes of the detainees, as well as propaganda materials identified with ISIS ideology and materials linking them to ISIS operatives in the Sahel region (Morocco World News, March 9, 2023).
Balkh governor killed in an ISIS suicide bombing attack
- On March 11, 2023, an explosive bag was set off in a building where members of the media were staying at the time in the city of Mazar-i Sharif in northern Afghanistan. One security guard was killed. Five journalists and three children were wounded (Al-Jazeera, March 12, 2023). ISIS’s Khorasan Province claimed responsibility for the attack, stating that an explosive bag, which was placed ahead of time at the “Al-Tibyan” Shiite center, which belongs to Iran, in Mazar-i Sharif, was set off while a ceremony was held there in honor of journalists working in various media organizations involved in the war and inciting against ISIS. According to ISIS, as a result of the explosion, 30 people were killed and wounded among the Shiite journalists and citizens there, as well as Taliban members who secured the event (Telegram, March 12, 2023).
- On March 9, 2023, at 09:00 in the morning, a suicide bomber activated his explosive belt on the second floor of the Balkh province headquarters, in the city of Mazar-i Sharif in northern Afghanistan. The governor of the province, Mohammad Dawood Muzammil, and two civilians were killed (Al-Jazeera, March 9, 2023). ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, stating that a suicide bomber, known as Abd al-Haqq al-Khorasani (i.e., from Afghanistan), entered the Balkh province governor’s headquarters after passing a security check and waited in the reception hall for the arrival of the governor. When the governor entered, the operative activated the explosive belt, killing the governor along with several of his security guards. According to ISIS, the province governor was one of the Taliban’s chief commanders and held a series of senior positions in the military and administrative fields. ISIS concluded its statement by saying that the war against the Taliban continues and “what comes next will be more painful and bitter” (Telegram, March 9, 2023).
The suicide bomber (Telegram, March 9, 2023)
Shooting attack against Herat’s chief engineer
- On March 8, 2023, an ATV was targeted by gunfire in the center of the city of Herat, about 120 km east of the Afghanistan-Iran border. Four people were killed in the attack, including the province’s chief engineer, Nader Shah Kaker. Three other people were wounded (Faydh Allah Fayadan Twitter account, Samiullah Menapal Twitter account, March 8, 2023). ISIS’s Khorasan Province claimed responsibility for the attack (Telegram, March 8, 2023).
ISIS operative shooting at the engineer (Telegram, March 10, 2023)
- Following an investigation that began in the summer of 2022, on March 8, 2023, German police officers arrested an 18-year-old German citizen of Moroccan origin near Passau, in the southeast of the country, near the border with Austria. The investigation revealed that the detainee (whose name was not given) planned to carry out a shooting attack in Frankfurt. To prepare for the attack, he searched the internet for training material for assembling explosives. He also purchased a cold weapon, which he stored in his parents’ garage. Further investigation revealed that he postponed his plan to carry out an attack in Frankfurt since he was unable to raise the money needed to purchase firearms. He planned to leave Germany on March 8, 2023, to travel to Iraq, where he hoped to join the ranks of ISIS (AP, March 9, 2023).
- On March 11, 2023, the department of foreign relations of the Kurdish autonomy in the north and east of Syria handed over to a Russian delegation 49 children with Russian citizenship, children of ISIS operative families, who were held in the Al-Hol detention camps (about 35 km east of al-Hasakah) and Rouj, about 130 km northeast of al-Hasakah (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, March 11, 2023).
The battle for hearts and minds
- The editorial of ISIS’s Al-Naba weekly which appeared this week under the title “Syrian residents and the world’s impotence,” deals with the organization’s insights from the earthquake in Syria. According to the author, the lack of significant aid from international humanitarian organizations to Syria is due to the lack of clear interest of these organizations to help Syrian citizens. These organizations, which the author claims are run by “Arab and non-Arab tyrants,” do not promote the interests of Muslims. According to the author, the citizens of Syria must understand that history teaches us that the weak are exploited and that the world respects only the strong. Therefore, according to the author, Muslims in general and in Syria, in particular, must unite around jihad and Islamic religious law (Sharia), strike their enemies, and thus show their strength, so that they will not need to be dependent on others (Al-Naba weekly, Telegram, March 9, 2023).
The article “Syrian residents and the world’s impotence”
(Al-Naba weekly, Telegram, March 9, 2023)
 According to the peace agreement signed in March 26, 1979, between Israel and Egypt, Egypt is prohibited from sending military forces into Sinai and is only allowed to send supervision police forces. ↑
 According to ISIS claims of responsibility and international media. ↑
 Based on ISIS’s claims of responsibility and international media. ↑