Summary of ISIS activity in the world in 2022 (Amaq, Telegram, January 4, 2023)
- The summary of ISIS activity in 2022, which is based on the organization’s claims of responsibility, shows that in 2022 there was a decrease in the scope of ISIS attacks around the globe, compared to 2021. During 2022, ISIS operatives carried out 2,058 terrorist acts, in which 6,881 people were killed and wounded worldwide, compared to 2,705 in 2021, in which 8,147 people were killed and wounded. This is a decrease of about 24% in the number of attacks and about 16% in the number of casualties, compared to the previous year.
- The largest number of attacks was carried out by ISIS’s West Africa Province, which is active mainly in Nigeria, but also in Chad, Northern Cameroon, and Southern Niger. The province carried out 547 attacks during 2022, in which 1,589 people were killed and wounded. The country where ISIS carried out the largest number of attacks in 2022 was Nigeria (517), followed by Iraq (484), Syria (297), and Afghanistan (the Khorasan Province) (181). The figures show that Africa has become the dominant continent in which ISIS is active, at the expense of ISIS’s countries of origin, Syria and Iraq.
- The largest number of casualties (dead and wounded) as a result of ISIS activity in 2022 was in Nigeria (1,412), followed by Afghanistan (1,188), Syria (887), Iraq (833), and other countries. However, ISIS operations in the Sahel region (the Niger-Burkina Faso-Mali border triangle area) and Afghanistan claimed the highest average number of casualties per operation. In the Sahel region, there was an average of 37 casualties per operation, and in Afghanistan – about seven casualties on average. This is compared to Nigeria – about three casualties per operation on average, in Syria three casualties per operation on average, and in Iraq about two casualties. The difference stems from the fact that in the Sahel region and Afghanistan, attacks were carried out on a larger scale than in Nigeria, Iraq, and Syria, where mostly limited guerilla attacks were carried out.
- The peak of ISIS’s activity during the year was in April and early May 2022. During this period, the organization conducted a campaign of attacks under the title “Campaign of Vengeance,” which was intended to avenge the death of ISIS leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi and ISIS spokesman Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, who were killed in a US operation in Syria two months earlier.
Characteristics of ISIS activity in 2022
- Targets of the attacks: The targets of the attacks were diverse and varied from one country to another. They included military and government targets, and the civilian population: especially Shiites in Afghanistan and Iraq; Christian rural populations especially in Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Nigeria; elements affiliated with Al-Qaeda, especially in the Sahel region.
- Form of the attacks: The vast majority of the terrorist operations in 2022 were in the form of relatively small attacks, carried out by small squads, which were equipped, for the most part, with light and medium weapons; the activation of IEDs; and targeted killing of civilians. On the other hand, many of the attacks carried out in the Sahel region and Afghanistan (Khorasan) were on a larger scale compared to other places. They were more organized and often involved many dozens and possibly even hundreds of operatives. In Afghanistan, attacks were carried out in crowded places (suicide bombing attacks and the activation of IEDs), which resulted in many casualties. In some of the terrorist operations, ISIS operatives demonstrated a high operational capability and carried out more complex operations, which included attacking aid forces that arrived at the scene, mainly shooting at the forces or planting IEDs ahead of time and activating them upon the arrival of the aid forces. In some operations, ISIS operatives disguised themselves as local security forces.
- Breaking into prisons: A prominent form of activity in 2022 was the liberation of ISIS prisoners from prison in complex break-in operations (“Tearing down the Walls,” as ISIS referred to such actions). During 2022, ISIS carried out three complex operations to free its prisoners: breaking into the Al-Hasakah Central Prison (January 20, 2022); attacking Kuje Prison, southwest of the Nigerian capital, Abuja, on July 5, 2022; and breaking into Kangwangura Prison, in northeastern Congo, on August 10, 2022. In these operations, hundreds of ISIS prisoners were released, which is considered a huge achievement for ISIS, especially because during the year, ISIS had difficulty recruiting supporters and operatives. The prisoners who were released and returned to the ranks of ISIS constituted an important pool of personnel for the continuation of the organization’s activity. In addition, this is an important achievement for ISIS in terms of the battle for hearts and minds, since by these actions, the organization embarrassed the countries and the entities entrusted with the security of the prisons.
- Terrorist activity as part of the economic war: During 2022, ISIS continued what it calls the economic war, although a decrease in the scope of activity was evident, apparently as part of the decline in the scope of the organization’s activity in general. Despite the decrease in the economic war operations, ISIS operatives managed to carry out attacks near the Suez Canal, the important traffic route for the economy of Egypt and the world. In Mozambique, they continued to threaten international natural gas projects in the northeast of the country. It should be noted that the economic war bears fruit for ISIS, even when it is limited, as it harms the economic infrastructure of the countries and undermines the status of some governments.
Main processes in 2022
- Significant harm to ISIS’s leadership and operatives: 2022 was a year in which the leadership of ISIS suffered particularly severe harm. In February 2022, US forces in Idlib killed Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi, ISIS’s second leader. In July 2022, US forces killed Maher al-Aqqal, a senior ISIS operative. In September 2022, it was reported that Bashar al-Sumaidai, a senior ISIS operative who was identified by researchers and security officials as the leader of the organization, was arrested by the Turkish security forces. In October 2022, Abu al-Hassan al-Hashimi al-Qurashi, the replacement of Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi, was killed in southwestern Syria. It should be noted that the short tenures of the organization’s leaders seriously damaged the organization’s strength and image.
- Significant harm to personnel: In addition to the leadership, hundreds and possibly thousands of operatives were eliminated throughout the year (we do not have the exact numbers), which was a severe blow to ISIS after its recruitment system apparently failed to recruit operatives and fill the ranks. The US Central Command (CENTCOM) reported that during 2022, its forces, acting in collaboration with local entities (the Kurdish SDF forces, the Iraqi army, and the Kurdish forces in Iraq), carried out 313 operations against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, during which senior officials of the organization and about 600 operatives were killed. More than 300 operatives were arrested in Syria and Iraq. In addition to that, there were dozens or even hundreds of operatives who were killed by the Syrian regime and the forces supporting it and by the Iraqi security forces. Hundreds and perhaps even thousands of operatives were also killed in Africa during the year. Despite the heavy blow suffered by ISIS, it should be remembered that in the past, the organization has shown a capacity for recovery, and its recruitment potential, especially in Africa, East Asia, and Europe, is still high.
- Changes in ISIS’s hotspots of activity: Judging based on ISIS’s activity in 2022, it is clearly evident that Africa is increasingly becoming the main epicenter of its activity at the expense of Syria and Iraq, ISIS’s countries of origin. The decline in the organization’s activity was particularly noticeable in Iraq, mainly owing to extensive countermeasures by Iraqi security forces. In Syria, ISIS continued to operate this year at a level of activity similar to that of 2021. Although the number of attacks decreased, the number of casualties increased, which could indicate a rise in the “quality” of the operations. The epicenters of activity in Syria were mainly the desert area and the Deir ez-Zor-Al-Mayadeen region. Activity was also detected in the Daraa region. ISIS’s significant achievement was the liberation of prisoners from Al-Hasakah prison, in an area controlled by the Kurds in northeastern Syria. ISIS’s activity in Afghanistan (Khorasan Province) has decreased considerably compared to the previous year. However, during the year, the activity spread to East Asian countries (rockets were fired at Uzbekistan and Tajikistan) and an ISIS media infrastructure was established in Afghanistan, aimed at various target audiences mainly in East Asia.
- Changes in the structure of the provinces: During 2022, the establishment of new provinces (Mozambique and Sahel) was announced. In March 2022, the establishment of the Sahel Province as an independent province was announced. In May 2022, ISIS’s Mozambique Province was separated from the Central Africa Province, whose activity had until then been concentrated in Mozambique and the Uganda-Democratic Republic of the Congo border. As of May 2022, the Central Africa Province remains operational in the Uganda-Democratic Republic of the Congo border region. This does not mean an actual expansion of the activity, but an organizational/administrative change, which is apparently aimed at subordinating all the provinces to the central organization in Syria and Iraq and allowing each of them to develop independently, assuming that the branches will expand in the future.
- Changes in the media network: Along with the decrease in ISIS activity, the organization’s media network was also reduced during the year. With the exception of Al-Naba, ISIS’s weekly magazine, which continued to be published regularly every week, the organization’s main media channels operated on a smaller scale. These channels include mainly Amaq, ISIS’s “news agency,” Al-Furqan, the video and audio recording production arm of the organization’s senior officials, and the organization’s social media network. It should be noted that Al-Azaim Media Foundation, operating from Afghanistan, has published since 2022 media materials in various languages, especially African, Asian, and Eastern European. This indicates that ISIS sees its future in recruiting supporters from these regions, given the organization’s weakness in Syria and Iraq.
- The recruitment system: Little is known about ISIS’s recruitment system, but it seems that it also sustained damage and is having difficulty recruiting new operatives. It should be noted that in the past, the organization demonstrated a high capacity for recovery, and it is likely that it will succeed in rehabilitating the recruitment system and recruiting new operatives.
- ISIS activity in the West: During 2022, ISIS did not carry out terrorist attacks in Western countries, and there were also no ISIS-inspired attacks (in 2021, two ISIS-inspired attacks were carried out on a relatively small scale). This may testify to the high foiling skills of the security services in Western countries, as reflected in the continuous decrease in the number of ISIS terrorist attacks since 2015-2016. It is also likely that this is due to a decrease in the public’s motivation to respond to ISIS calls to carry out attacks. However, it must be remembered that the potential for attacks in the West is still very high.
- Iran: In 2022, ISIS carried out its first attack in four years. It was a shooting attack on worshipers and security personnel at a Shiite temple in Shiraz. Fifteen people were killed and about 40 were wounded. During the year, the Iranians foiled several additional attacks, which indicates that ISIS attempts to gain a foothold in Iran.
- Israel: In 2022, there were three terrorist attacks whose perpetrators were inspired by ISIS. The attacks were carried out in Hadera, Beer Sheba, and Jerusalem. ISIS claimed responsibility only for the attack in Hadera since the attackers pledged allegiance to ISIS’s leader before carrying out the attack. It should be noted that no ISIS network subordinate to the organization’s leadership was found in Israel.
 The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC) has gathered the information about ISIS activity around the world in the last year based on the claims of responsibility published by the organization in its media, especially in Al-Naba weekly and Amaq, ISIS’s propaganda wing. Some of the incidents have been verified by reports from local sources. It should be remembered that the actual number of terrorist acts may be higher because in some provinces ISIS reported a lower number of terrorist acts than is actually attributed to it. It is also likely that due to communications problems, some of the information did not reach ISIS’s central information system, which is responsible for the reports on behalf of the organization. ↑
 On April 17, 2022, ISIS announced a “campaign of vengeance for the [death] of the two sheikhs” (the organization’s leader, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi, and his spokesman, Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, who were killed on February 3, 2022 in an operation carried out by American forces in Syria). This is the longest campaign carried out by ISIS so far (16 days), with the highest number of attacks, which caused the highest number of casualties. According to ISIS data, 245 attacks were carried out during the campaign, in which 726 people were killed and wounded, including 23 officers and commanders. For more information, see the ITIC’s Information Bulletin from April 19, 2022: “ISIS announces campaign to avenge the death of its former leader and spokesman” ↑
 See the ITIC’s Information Bulletin from February 8, 2022: “ISIS’s takeover of the prison in Al-Hasakah, which it presents as an achievement, may bring about additional such actions” ↑
 See the ITIC’s Information Bulletin from July 17, 2022: “Break-in to Kuje Prison in Nigeria: another ISIS activity to liberate prisoners” ↑
 See the ITIC’s Information Bulletin from August 18, 2022: “Spotlight on Global Jihad (August 11-17, 2022)” ↑
 See the ITIC’s Information Bulletin from December 4, 2022, “ISIS has officially announced the death of the organization’s leader and the appointment of a new leader” ↑
 The first ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, served for about six and a half years, between April 7, 2013 and October 27, 2019. The second leader, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi, served for two years and three months, between October 31, 2019, and February 3, 2022. The third leader, Abu al-Hassan al-Hashimi al-Qurashi, served in this position for about seven months, between March 10, 2022, and mid-October 2022. ↑
 The Sahel Province, which operates in the Niger-Burkina Faso-Mali border triangle, operated until March 2022 as a sub-branch called the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), which was subordinate to ISIS’s West Africa Province. ↑