This week, the downtrend in ISIS’s activity in the various provinces continued. This is after a significant increase during the month of Ramadan:
Syria: In the desert area (Al-Badia), several Syrian soldiers were wounded when a mine exploded in the Palmyra region. Russian planes carried out over 100 airstrikes against ISIS targets in the desert region. In the Deir ez-Zor-Al-Mayadeen region and in the Al-Raqqa region: this week, there was a decrease in the volume of ISIS’s activity against the Kurdish SDF forces.
Iraq: The main event was a car bomb explosion against the Tribal Mobilization forces in Haditha, in western Iraq. Twelve Tribal Mobilization fighters were killed or wounded in the explosion. ISIS’s Iraq Province released a video threatening those who collaborate with the authorities.
The Sinai Peninsula: The commander of the Egyptian army’s Counterterrorism Unit was killed by sniper fire during an Egyptian army operation against terrorist elements in Sheikh Zuweid, in northern Sinai. ISIS’s Sinai Province released photos documenting the execution of two collaborators with the Egyptian security forces who had been abducted in northern Sinai.
ISIS’s activity in Africa focused on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria and Niger. The number of attacks carried out this week was relatively low and they were directed mainly at local security and army forces. ISIS’s Al-Naba’ weekly continues to publish articles documenting its governance capabilities in various parts of Africa, mainly those where the central government is weak.
Afghanistan: In the province of Parwan, IEDs were activated against two buses carrying Shiites, several dozen of whom were killed or wounded. This week, several attacks were also carried out against the security forces. Most of the attacks took the form of activating IEDs and focused on Jalalabad. In the Philippines and Indonesia, local security forces arrested operatives of ISIS-affiliated organizations.
The battle for hearts and minds: This week, ISIS’s Al-Naba’ weekly published a poster detailing the goals of ISIS’s propaganda activity, to which the organization attaches great importance. The poster reiterates ISIS’s key concept that war is waged simultaneously in two key spheres that are of equal importance: military war and propaganda war.
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 there has been a significant decrease in the scope of the attacks. On May 27, 2021, ISIS claimed responsibility for machine gun fire at an SDF fighter in the Hajin region, about 50 km southeast of Al-Mayadeen. He was killed.
The desert region (Al-Badia)
Russian fighter jets carried out over 100 airstrikes against ISIS targets in the desert region (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, May 28, 2021). Several Syrian soldiers were wounded when a mine exploded during an operation against ISIS in the Palmyra region (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, May 28, 2021).
On May 26, 2021, an IED was activated against an SDF vehicle in south Al-Raqqah. The four passengers on board were killed or wounded.
The Iraqi arena
Provinces of Iraq (Wikipedia)
This week as well, ISIS operatives carried out attacks in the various provinces in Iraq. There was a significant decrease in the number of attacks this week as well. 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 27, 2021, an IED was activated against a group of Iraqi soldiers in southern Daquq, in south Kirkuk. A police officer was killed.
Salah al-Din Province
Most of the incidents this week were focused on the region west of Tuz Khormato, about 100 km northeast of Samarra:
On May 30, 2021, an Iraqi army headquarters was targeted by machine gun fire. Several soldiers were wounded.
On May 28, 2021, the headquarters of an Iraqi foj (army force whose size is between a battalion and a brigade) in the region was targeted by mortar shells. No casualties or damage were reported.
On May 27, 2021, an IED was activated against an Iraqi army vehicle. The passengers on board were wounded.
Right: ISIS operatives observing the camp (Telegram, May 30, 2021). Left: ISIS operative preparing to fire rockets (Telegram, May 30, 2021)
Another attack was carried out on May 28, 2021, against an Iraqi army camp on the Haditha-Baiji road. The camp sustained damage. On May 30, 2021, a Tribal Mobilization vehicle was targeted by gunfire in the region of Yathrib, about 40 km southeast of Samarra. Two Tribal Mobilization fighters were wounded.
On May 31, 2021, an IED was activated against an Iraqi army patrol during operational activity in eastern Iraq, near the border with Syria. One soldier was killed. On the same day, an Iraqi army headquarters near the Arar border crossing on the Iraqi-Saudi border was also attacked. Several soldiers were killed or wounded, and the building sustained damage.
On May 28, 2021, an IED was activated against a patrol of the Iraqi army and the Popular Mobilization east of Al-Qaim, near the Iraqi-Syrian border. Several fighters were killed or wounded. A day earlier, on May 27, 2021, mortar shells were fired at an Iraqi army camp in east Al-Qaim. A direct hit was observed. No casualties or damage were reported.
Right: ISIS operative preparing to fire a mortar shell at an Iraqi army camp. Left: The mortar shell being fired at the camp (Telegram, May 29, 2021)
On May 26, 2021, an IED was activated near the house of a mukhtar affiliated with the Iraqi regime in the Al-Masharee’ region, south of Al-Qaim. The house was destroyed.
On May 25, 2021, a car bomb exploded in Haditha, western Iraq, among Tribal Mobilization fighters. A total of 12 Tribal Mobilization fighters were killed or wounded.
On May 28, 2021, a Popular Mobilization camp north of Al-Miqdadiya was targeted by gunfire. One fighter was wounded.
Counterterrorism in Iraq
The Iraqi security forces arrested 12 wanted ISIS operatives in the province (Security Information Unit Facebook account, May 29, 2021).
The Iraqi security forces located five rockets ready for being launched in the Kirkuk region (Security Information Unit Facebook account, May 31, 2021).
In the Kabisa region, about 150 km west of Baghdad, the security forces located a motorcycle bomb that ISIS intended to use in an attack (Security Information Unit Facebook account, May 29, 2021).
The security forces arrested two ISIS operatives, the one in the Daquq region, south of Kirkuk, and the other in the Al-Intisar neighborhood in Mosul. The two men had been engaged in smuggling weapons to ISIS’s hiding places. The sum of $247,000 was found in their possession (Security Information Unit, May 30, 2021).
ISIS’s Iraq Province released a video threatening collaborators
ISIS’s Iraq Province released a video entitled Creators of Wars (“Sunna’ al-Malahem”), documenting executions of collaborators with the Iraqi regime. One of those seen in the video was a commander belonging to the Tribal Mobilization forces in the Jalula region. The video also documents the collaborators’ houses, belongings and wheat fields being set on fire. Threats against collaborators can be heard in the background (Telegram, May 29, 2021).
The Sinai Peninsula
Colonel Khaled al-Arian, commander of Egyptian Army Counterterrorism Unit 888, was killed by sniper fire during an operation against terrorist elements (i.e., ISIS) in Sheikh Zuweid in northern Sinai (Nabd al-Watan, May 30, 2021; @mahmouedgamal44 Twitter account, May 30, 2021). A day after his death, ISIS’s Sinai Province released a statement claiming responsibility for the attack. According to the statement, ISIS operatives fired at an Egyptian army patrol during an operation in Al-Shalaq, west of Sheikh Zuweid. An Egyptian officer with the rank of aqid (colonel), an Egyptian army commander, was killed in the attack.
Khaled al-Arian, killed by a sniper in Sheikh Zuweid (Nabd al-Watan, May 30, 2021)
ISIS’s Sinai Province released photos documenting the execution of two collaborators with the Egyptian security forces after they had been abducted in northern Sinai (Telegram, May 30, 2021).
Summary of ISIS’s activity in the various provinces
ISIS’s released an infographic summing up its activity around the globe in May 20-26, 2021. According to the infographic, during the weeks following Ramadan (a month in which there was an increase in the scope of ISIS’s activity), a relatively low level of activity continues in the various provinces.
During the period in question, ISIS operatives carried out 40 attacks in the various provinces in Asia and Africa, compared to 39 in the previous week. The largest number of attacks was carried out in Iraq (16). The attacks carried out in the other provinces: Syria (11); Khorasan, i.e., Afghanistan (6); Central Africa (3); West Africa (2); Sinai (1); Pakistan (1) (ISIS’s Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, May 27, 2021).
According to the infographic, 99 people were killed or wounded in the attacks, compared to 127 in the previous week. The largest number of casualties was in the province of Iraq (33). The other casualties were in the following provinces: Syria (24); Khorasan, i.e., Afghanistan (21); West Africa (10); Central Africa (10); Pakistan (1) (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, May 27, 2021).
ISIS’s infographic (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, May 27, 2021)
On May 23, 2021, ISIS claimed responsibility, about a week late, for an attack against a Nigerian police checkpoint in Yunusari, in northern Yobe State, near the Nigeria-Niger border. Several policemen were killed in the attack and several others were wounded.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
On June 1, 2021, a Congolese army camp was attacked in the Beni region, about 50 km west of the border between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda.
On May 31, 2021, a UN official in charge of human rights issues announced that at least 55 villagers were murdered on the night of May 30-31, 2021 in the area of the villages of Boga and Tchabi, near the Congo-Uganda border. It is estimated that the ISIS-affiliated Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) was responsible for the massacre. The attackers also abducted several people and set houses on fire (Reuters, May 31, 2021).
On May 30, 2021, ISIS operatives attacked a joint base of the Congolese army and the African Coalition in the Beni region. Ten soldiers were killed in the exchange of fire. The ISIS operatives seized various types of weapons and ammunition.
On May 29, 2021, ISIS operatives ambushed Congolese soldiers in the Rwenzori region in eastern Congo, not far from the border with Uganda. One soldier was killed in the exchange of fire. Another soldier was taken prisoner and executed after being interrogated.
On May 27, 2021, ISIS operatives ambushed and opened fire on a truck of Christian residents on the Kasundi Highway, about 50 km southeast of Beni. Two of the passengers were killed.
On May 31, 2021, ISIS operatives attacked a Nigerien army post in the Diffa region, on the Niger-Nigeria border. Two soldiers were killed and several others were wounded in the exchange of fire. Two other soldiers were taken prisoner.
Signs of ISIS’s governance in West Africa
ISIS’s Al-Naba weekly continues to publish articles documenting the extent of its governance in various parts of Africa, mainly those where the central government is weak. As a result of this activity, ISIS manages to gain the support of the local residents.
This week, the weekly published an article about the activity of the Office of Charity (Diwan al-Zakah) of ISIS’s West Africa Province over the past two months. According to the article, ISIS collects charitable funds in the areas under its control on a regular basis and distributes the money to the needy. In the article, the head of the office provides details about his activities, noting that he has four teams that collect the charitable funds. According to him, the charitable funds are collected from those whose income is at a certain level, mainly wealthy people, landowners and farmers. Every month, each team is directed to a specific region to carry out the collection activity. According to the head of the ministry in the Al-Buhairah region (apparently the Lake Chad area in the Chad-Nigeria-Cameroon tri-border region), his ministry collected about $160,000 over the past two months. In addition to collecting charitable funds, there is also a mechanism for distributing the funds among the residents. The mechanism has organized lists of the needy. The distribution during the recent month of Ramadan was as follows: a cash amount in the local currency equivalent to about $8,800 was distributed. In addition, 825 food packages and 353 items of clothing were distributed (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, May 27, 2021). It is probable that ISIS’s charitable fund collection mechanism is actually a tax collection mechanism and that the money collected is transferred, at least in part, to cover ISIS’s expenses.
Article on collecting charitable funds (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, May 27, 2021)
This week, ISIS continued to carry out attacks, mainly against the Afghan security services. The attacks were carried out in Jalalabad. Following are several noteworthy attacks, according to ISIS’s claims of responsibility:
On May 30, 2021, a tribal leader loyal to the Afghan government was targeted by gunfire.
On May 29, 2021, an IED was activated against an Afghan police vehicle. A police officer was killed and six policemen were wounded.
On May 27, 2021, an IED was activated against the convoy of the governor of the Kunar Province. One of his escorts was killed and three others were wounded.
On May 25, 2021, an Afghan police vehicle was targeted by gunfire. Four policemen were wounded.
Three more attacks were carried out in the Parwan region, north of Kabul. On May 29, 2021, an IED was activated against a bus carrying Shiite civilians. Eight of the passengers were killed or wounded. On May 29, 2021, two IEDs were activated against two oil tankers in the region. Both tankers went up in flames. On June 1, 2021, an IED was activated against another bus carrying Shiite civilians. About 20 of the bus passengers were wounded.
On May 28, 2021, ISIS operatives abducted two civilians (“spies”) in Quetta, about 60 km from the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. They were later executed.
Philippine security forces arrested nine operatives of the ISIS-affiliated Daulah Islamiyah-Maute Group (DI-MG) in the province of Lanao del Sur in the southern Philippines. During the arrest, an IED, two M-16 assault rifles, a carbine rifle, two pistols, a communications device and a laptop were found in the operatives’ possession (www.eurasiareview.com, June 1, 2021).
Indonesian police have announced the arrest of several ISIS operatives in the Papua Province (in eastern Indonesia and near Papua New Guinea). The detainees are suspected of planning to carry out attacks against churches in the region, where most of the residents are Christians. The suspects are members of the ISIS-affiliated Jemaah Anshorut Daulah organization (www.wral.com, May 31, 2021).
According to an announcement by the Russian security forces, they managed to thwart two attempted ISIS attacks in the Stavropol region in North Caucasus. This was made possible following an investigation carried out by a resident of Stavropol. The investigation revealed that ISIS operatives were planning to plant an IED against the transportation infrastructure in the region. In the wake of the investigation, another person, from East Asia, was arrested. He had come to the region with the aim of carrying out a terrorist act. Explosives were found in the suspect’s possession (Rusiya al-Youm, May 27, 2021).
The battle for hearts and minds
Objectives of the propaganda activity in ISIS’s view
This week, ISIS’s Al-Naba weekly published a poster detailing the goals of ISIS’s propaganda activity, to which the organization attaches great importance. The poster includes a quote by former ISIS spokesman Abu Hamza al-Muhajer, who states that the war of the jihad fighters against their enemies is waged in two spheres: the military war and the propaganda war, and that the slander against the Islamic nation on the part of the enemies of Islam is no less deadly than their weapons, since they lead to mental weakness among the members of the Islamic nation.
According to the poster, the goals of ISIS’s propaganda are mainly to protect jihad and the jihad fighters in response to incitement against them by their enemies, to call on the public to wage jihad (violent jihad), to publicize the achievements of the jihad fighters and to reveal their acts of heroism, to prevent the infiltration of foreign ideas into Islam, psychological warfare against the enemy in order to weaken its morale, to respond to and deal with those opposed to the organization’s beliefs and to strengthen the faith among the believers (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, May 27, 2021).
Poster detailing the goals of propaganda in ISIS’s view (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, May 27, 2021)