Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau (Al-Arabiya, May 21, 2021)
The camp set on fire by ISIS operatives (Telegram, May 25, 2021)
Execution of the sentence (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, May 21, 2021)
Main events of the past week
- About a week and a half after the end of Ramadan, there is still a decrease in ISIS’s activity in the various arenas around the globe:
- Syria: ISIS continued its attacks against the SDF in the Deir ez-Zor-Al-Mayadeen region. In the Al-Raqqah region, two oil tankers of the Al-Qaterji company (which serves the Syrian regime) were targeted by gunfire. In the Aleppo region, a Syrian army camp near the Syrian-Turkish border was targeted by gunfire.
- Iraq: This week there was a decrease in the number of attacks carried out by the ISIS operatives in the various provinces in the country. The Iraqi security forces managed to damage ISIS’s logistics infrastructure in Diyala Province, killing two commanders who played a key role in the attacks carried out during the month of Ramadan. The Iraqi army reported that it expects to receive state-of-the-art equipment that will significantly improve its surveillance and detection capabilities in the border region.
- Africa: In Africa as well, there was a decrease in ISIS’s activity this week. There have been reports that Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau was seriously wounded in an attack carried out by operatives of ISIS’s West Africa Province and may have died of his wounds.
- Asia: There was a decrease in activity in Afghanistan as well. Turkish security forces arrested an ISIS operative, a senior sabotage expert who specialized in manufacturing explosives and explosive belts and even trained ISIS operatives via the Internet.
- The battle for hearts and minds: This week’s feature article in ISIS’s Al-Naba’ weekly was devoted to Jerusalem. The author stresses that the path of jihad advocated by ISIS is completely different from the path of “resistance” advocated by Palestinian organizations, led by Hamas, as well as the pro-Iranian Hezbollah. The author claims that the only way to liberate Jerusalem from Israel is through the jihad of Muslim believers and not through the activity of Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran.
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, May 2021).
The Deir ez-Zor-Al-Mayadeen region
- ISIS continued its attacks against the Kurdish SDF forces operating in the region, although this week there has been a decrease in the scope of the attacks.
- The following are details about some of the attacks, according to ISIS’s claims of responsibility:
- On May 23, 2021, an IED was activated near the home of an SDF fighter in the Basira region, about 15 km north of Al-Mayadeen. The house was destroyed.
- On May 19, 2021, an SDF vehicle was targeted by gunfire in the Shahil region, about 10 km north of Al-Mayadeen. Two SDF commanders and a fighter were e killed, and two others were wounded. An IED was activated against a force arriving on the scene to provide assistance. Six SDF fighters, including a commander, were wounded. Two days later (May 21, 2021), three SDF fighters, including a commander, where shot and killed in the same area.
- On May 19, 2021, an SDF force in Diban, about 3 km east of Al-Mayadeen, was targeted by gunfire and a rocket. Two fighters were killed.
- On May 19, 2021, a lawyer working in the service of the SDF was targeted by machine gun fire in Karameh, east of Al-Raqqah. He was killed. In addition, two oil tankers belonging to the Al-Qaterji company (which serves the Syrian regime) were targeted by gunfire on a road east of Al-Raqqah. They were both put out of commission.
- On May 24, 2021, an SDF vehicle was targeted by gunfire in the Shadadi region, about 50 km south of Al-Hasakah. The passengers on board were wounded.
- On May 20, 2021, a Syrian army camp was targeted by gunfire in the desert near the Syrian-Turkish border. Two rocket launchers were destroyed.
- ISIS claimed responsibility for killing two militia fighters in Khirbat Ghazala (in eastern Daraa), on the Damascus-Amman international highway. According to ISIS, one of the fighters had been acting in the service of Hezbollah, trying to convince residents to convert to Shiite Islam (24SY, May 21, 2021). It was also reported that persons unknown shot and killed Fawaz Abdel Karim al-Salkhadi, an ISIS operative, in Jassem, northern Daraa (24SY, May 21, 2021).
The Iraqi arena
Provinces of Iraq (Wikipedia)
- This week as well, ISIS operatives carried out attacks in the various provinces in Iraq, although there was a significant decrease in the number of attacks. The Iraqi security forces continued their counterterrorism measures against ISIS in the various provinces. The following is a list of attacks, mostly according to ISIS’s claims of responsibility.
- On May 23, 2021, Iraqi policemen were targeted by gunfire in the Riyad region, about 50 km southwest of Kirkuk. One policeman was killed and two others were wounded.
- On May 22, 2021, an IED was activated against an Iraqi police vehicle in southern Daquq, in southern Kirkuk. The passengers on board were killed or wounded.
Salah al-Din Province
- On May 22, 2021, an Iraqi army force was targeted by gunfire in the Yathrib region, about 40 km southeast of Samarra. The force was lying in wait for ISIS operatives in the area. One soldier was wounded.
- On May 22, 2021, a Tribal Mobilization commander was shot dead near his home in Tarmiyah.
- On May 21, 2021, a Tribal Mobilization commander’s house was attacked east of Tikrit. The commander was killed.
- On May 20, 2021, an IED was activated against an Iraqi army vehicle northeast of Tuz Khormato, about 100 km northeast of Samarra. The vehicle was destroyed and the passengers on board were killed or wounded.
- On May 22, 2021, an Iraqi Border Police patrol was ambushed and targeted by gunfire near the Iraqi-Saudi border. Several fighters were wounded.
Counterterrorism in Iraq
- The Iraqi army announced that its forces were working in coordination with the US-led International Coalition to receive state-of-the-art equipment that will lead, in two months, to a significant improvement in the army’s surveillance and detection capabilities. With this equipment, it will reportedly be possible to seal the border between Iraq and Syria and prevent the infiltration of terrorist operatives into Iraqi territory (Al-Rafidiyoun, May 22, 2021).
- The Iraqi counterterrorism unit reported that it had killed two ISIS commanders who played a key role in the attacks carried out in the district during the month of Ramadan (Al-Hal, May 21, 2021). In addition, unit operatives destroyed several hiding places and caves used by ISIS in the region of the Hamrin Mountains, about 50 km northwest of Baqubah (Al-Sumaria, May 22, 2021).
Salah al-Din Province
- The Iraqi army located an ISIS weapons cache near Lake Tharthar, southwest of Samarra. The catch contained two drones, a BKC machine gun, an RPG rocket launcher and rockets, hand grenades, as well as two cameras, among other things (Al-Sumaria, May 22, 2021).
- On May 22, 2021, the Popular Mobilization announced that its forces had located several guesthouses which served as logistics bases for ISIS. In the Popular Mobilization’s assessment, the location of those guesthouses will bring about a drastic decrease in ISIS’s capabilities to carry out attacks in the region (Al-Alam, May 22, 2021).
- On May 22, 2021, the Iraqi army announced that it had arrested three ISIS operatives and neutralized seven IEDs. In addition, it reported that it had located an ISIS tunnel, seven Kalashnikov submachine guns, and explosives (Al-Sumaria, May 22, 2021).
The Sinai Peninsula
- Egyptian army forces in Bir al-Abd carried out an operation against an ISIS terrorist cell in the village of Amouriya, after ISIS operatives commandeered a car, abducted the four passengers on board and escaped. Immediately after the abduction, Egyptian army forces pursued the operatives, with air support. They caught up with the abductors and confronted them. Four ISIS operatives were killed and three others were caught, along with their weapons and ammunition (Anbaa Sinaa, May 23, 2021).
- A security patrol killed three terrorist operatives and arrested others in Bir al-Abd. Another operative was caught two days before while he was trying to plant an IED near the police station in Bir al-Abd (Anbaa Sinaa, May 23, 2021).
Summary of ISIS’s activity in the various provinces
- This week, ISIS’s media outlets released an infographic summing up ISIS’s activity around the globe in May 13-19, 2021. According to the infographic, during this period, there was a significant decrease in the scope of ISIS’s activity in its various provinces. ISIS operatives carried out 39 attacks in the various provinces in Asia and Africa, compared to 131 in the previous week. The largest number of attacks was carried out in Syria (14). The attacks carried out in the other provinces: Iraq (9); Khorasan, i.e., Afghanistan (7); West Africa (4); Central Africa (2); India (2); Sinai (1) (ISIS’s Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, May 21, 2021). According to the infographic, 127 people were killed or wounded in the attacks, compared to 216 in the previous week. The largest number of casualties was in the province of Khorasan, i.e., Afghanistan (64). The other casualties were in the following provinces: Syria (33); Iraq (11); West Africa (10); Central Africa (7); Sinai (2) (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, May 21, 2021).
- The infographic indicates a significant decrease in ISIS’s attacks around the globe after the month of Ramadan. In addition, the data reveals that there has been a decrease in the scope of ISIS’s activity in Africa, and that the largest number of casualties was in Afghanistan.
ISIS’s infographic (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, May 21, 2021)
- According to a source close to Boko Haram, ISIS’s West Africa Province took advantage of the month of Ramadan to initiate clashes with Boko Haram operatives and seize control of their weapons. It was further reported that some of Boko Haram’s commanders had joined ISIS’s West Africa Province (CNN, May 21, 2021). According to several reports, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau was seriously wounded in an attack carried out by operatives of ISIS’s West Africa Province in the Sambisa Forest, south of Maiduguri, in northeastern Nigeria, and may have died of his injuries. The Nigerian army reported that it was examining the information (CNN, May 21, 2021; The Guardian, May 22, 2021). According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, the death of Boko Haram’s leader has been confirmed (The Wall Street Journal, May 21, 2021).
- The fighting between Boko Haram and ISIS’s West Africa Province (many of whose operatives are former Boko Haram operatives who left the organization after not recognizing Shekau’s authority) is another manifestation of the rift between ISIS’s supporters and Shekau’s supporters. Shekau’s death could significantly weaken Boko Haram and, at the same time, strengthen ISIS’s West Africa Province.
- Shekau took control of Boko Haram (then still called Jama’at Ahl al-Sunna lil-Da’wa wal-Jihad) in 2009 and significantly intensified its violent activity. In 2014, he even declared himself a caliph in the city of Gwoza in Borno State, in northeastern Nigeria. That same year he gained worldwide fame for abducting about 300 schoolgirls in Chibok, in Borno State. About 100 of these schoolgirls are still missing. After a year in which the Nigerian army carried out military operations against him, with the help of forces from Cameroon, Chad and Niger, he lost control of Gwoza. In 2016, operatives who had left Boko Haram established ISIS’s West Africa Province (CNN, May 21, 2021; The Guardian, May 22, 2021).
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau (Al-Arabiya, May 21, 2021)
Democratic Republic of the Congo
- On May 24, 2021, ISIS operatives attacked a Congolese army camp near Kanjabai Prison, in the Beni region, about 50 km west of the Congo-Uganda border. Two soldiers were killed in the exchange of fire. ISIS operatives set fire to the camp.
- On May 22, 2021, a Nigerien police headquarters was targeted by gunfire on the Chetimari-Maine-Soroa road, about 40 km west of Diffa, near the Nigeria-Niger border. One policeman was killed and several others were wounded. ISIS operatives seized weapons and ammunition.
- ISIS’s Al-Naba’ weekly published an article about the execution of a sentence handed down against three criminals in an open market in the Tin-Hama region in southeastern Mali. This is a region far from the control of the central government, which has been taken over by global jihad elements. According to ISIS, following complaints from local residents, ISIS operatives detained three people in the area between Gao and Menaka, in southeastern Mali. The three were tried and sentenced to amputation of their hands and feet. According to the article, the sentence was carried out according to Sharia law for the crime of Ḥirābah, a particularly violent robbery which, according to Sharia law, requires a severe punishment (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, May 21, 2021). In the absence of a stable government in the area in question, ISIS operatives have apparently managed to establish a form of governance over the local population and to impose Sharia law (www.longwarjournal.org, May 23, 2021).
Execution of the sentence (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, May 21, 2021)
- This week, ISIS continued to carry out attacks, mainly against the Afghan security services. Most of the attacks were carried out in Jalalabad. Following are several noteworthy attacks, according to ISIS’s claims of responsibility:
- On May 24, 2021, an IED was activated against a vehicle of the Afghan Intelligence in Jalalabad. Six intelligence personnel were killed and three others were wounded.
- On May 22, 2021, an Afghan Intelligence “spy” was targeted by gunfire in a town in the Kunar Province. The “spy” was killed.
- On May 19, 2021, two Afghan policemen were targeted by gunfire in Jalalabad. Both were killed.
- On May 18, 2021, an IED was activated against an Afghan police vehicle in Jalalabad. One policeman was killed and three others were wounded.
- As part of the Turkish security forces’ counterterrorism activity, a senior ISIS sabotage expert was arrested in Istanbul on May 24, 2021. He had apparently planned to carry out terrorist attacks in Turkey. The detainee, Mustafa Abd al-Wahhab Sufi Mahmoud, 22, a native of Egypt, traveled to Syria, where he joined the ranks of ISIS and specialized in manufacturing explosives and explosive belts for ISIS. He also trained ISIS operatives on how to manufacture explosives via the Internet. After leaving Syria, he returned to Egypt and from there he moved to Turkey (www.turkeynow.news, May 24, 2021).
The battle for hearts and minds
The liberation of Jerusalem from the perspective of ISIS
- The feature article of ISIS’s Al-Naba’ weekly, entitled The Road to Jerusalem, deals with Jerusalem, in view of recent events in the city and the fighting in the Gaza Strip. The article states that the only way to liberate Jerusalem from Israel is through the jihad of Muslims believers and not through the activity of Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran.
- The article begins by stating that people used to say that “all roads lead to Rome,” but the truth is that only one road leads to Rome, and that is the road that leads to Mecca, Jerusalem and Andalusia. It is also the same road that leads to Baghdad, Damascus and the other capitals and fortresses of the Muslims, which have become hostages and were stolen from the Muslims. The author further notes that Jerusalem is a “debt to be repaid and a promise to be kept.”
- The author stresses that the path of jihad advocated by ISIS is completely different from the path of “resistance” advocated by Palestinian organizations, led by Hamas, as well as the pro-Iranian Hezbollah. Therefore, Muslims should choose the path of jihad and not the path of “resistance.” The author adds that jihad fighters in Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa are closer to Jerusalem than those who claim to be assisting it (i.e., Hamas) because their path is corrupt. Those who created rifts in Islam, turned their backs on ISIS and collaborated with the “objectors” (a derogatory term for the Shiites) and with the “tyrannical” Arab regimes, will not liberate Jerusalem, and only the Muslims who adhere to their faith will do so.
- In conclusion, the author states that ISIS does not exaggerate the importance of Jerusalem and does not distinguish it from other issues of the Islamic nation. He calls on all jihad fighters everywhere to help their “brothers in Palestine;” Anyone who cannot fight the Jews in Palestine must fight them outside Palestine. They must also fight against the allies of the Jews and the Arab and foreign regimes that support them (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, May 21, 2021).