Summary of ISIS’s campaign of vengeance for the deaths of ISIS’s leader and spokesman

Overview
  • On April 17, 2022, ISIS announced the “campaign of vengeance for [the deaths of] the two sheikhs” (ISIS’s leader and the organization’s spokesman, who were killed on February 3, 2022, in an operation by US forces)[1]. This was the longest campaign ever launched by ISIS so far (16 days), with the highest number of attacks, which caused the highest number of casualties.[2]
  • According to ISIS’s data, during the campaign, ISIS carried out 245 attacks, in which 726 people were killed and wounded, including 23 officers and commanders.[3] The attacks took various forms: assault and exchange of fire (93); detonation of IEDs (73); targeted killings (32); ambushes (11); blowing up parked car bombs (2); and other forms (34). In these attacks, seven government buildings, two churches, and a Shiite house of worship were set on fire (Al-Naba weekly, Telegram, May 5, 2022).[4]
  • There were several countries and provinces, such as the Sahel, Yemen and Mozambique, regarding which there were no reports of attacks as part of the campaign.
Details of the attacks carried out as part of the campaign (Al-Naba weekly, Telegram, May 5, 2022)
Details of the attacks carried out as part of the campaign (Al-Naba weekly, Telegram, May 5, 2022)
  • This has not been the first time in which ISIS has used the name “raids of vengeance for the killing of the two sheikhs.” This was also the name of ISIS’s fourth campaign, which lasted for eight days, taking place on December 22-29, 2019, after the killing of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the organization’s spokesman Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajer. It seems that the use of the same terminology is intended to convey a clear message that the killing of ISIS’s leaders will not put an end to the organization and that ISIS is determined to avenge the death of its leaders.
  • In the ITIC’s assessment, from ISIS’s perspective, the campaign achieved most of its goals although no multi-casualty attack was carried. ISIS has once again proven that it is far from disappearing and that it has diverse capabilities. The organization made extensive use of the month of Ramadan for its needs, set a record number of attacks and casualties, and even added new arenas of activity.
Noteworthy characteristics
  • Duration of the campaign, the scope of the attacks and the number of casualties: The campaign lasted for 16 days, extremely long in relation to previous campaigns, which lasted between three days to two weeks. As part of the campaign, ISIS carried out the largest number of attacks so far, with the largest number of casualties.
  • Targets of the attacks and the nature of the casualties: Most of the attacks were directed at government and security targets in the various countries, and most of the casualties were security operatives and government officials. However, there were also several attacks directed against Christian residents of Africa and Shiite residents of Afghanistan and Iraq. They claimed the lives of dozens of civilians.
Seven Christian residents who were abducted in Chetimari, a moment before their execution (Telegram, April 22, 2022)
Seven Christian residents who were abducted in Chetimari, a moment before their execution (Telegram, April 22, 2022)
  • The main attack took place on April 21, 2022, at a Shiite mosque in the city of Mazar-i Sharif in Afghanistan. As reported, a total of 33 people were killed and 43 were wounded (France24, April 22, 2022; NBC, April 22, 2022). According to ISIS, “the soldiers of the caliphate managed to get a booby-trapped bag” inside a mosque of Shiites (originally referred to as “polytheists”) and detonated it remotely once the mosque was packed with worshipers. Over 100 people were killed and wounded (Telegram, April 21, 2022).
  • Taking advantage of the month of Ramadan for the campaign: ISIS selected the month of Ramadan, the Muslims’ holiest month, as the timing of its campaign, taking advantage of it to arouse violent jihad as part of the campaign. The current campaign has been ISIS’s second campaign to take place during the month of Ramadan.
  • Expanding arenas of activity: During the campaign, ISIS expanded the regions of its activity. In Nigeria, it did not make do with Borno and Yobe states but also expanded its activity to Taraba and Kogi states. In addition, for the first time, ISIS operatives fired rockets from the territory of Afghanistan into Uzbekistan.
  • Causing damage to economic targets: During the campaign, ISIS did not manage (or did not try) to carry out direct attacks against clearly economic targets. It did destroy equipment and property while carrying out terrorist attacks.
  • Countries and ISIS provinces where no attacks took place: As far as we know, the provinces of the Sahel, Yemen and Mozambique could not carry out attacks as part of the campaign.
Appendix
ISIS’s previous campaigns
  • “The raids of vengeance of the blessed al-Sham [Syria] Province” lasted for four days, taking place on April 8-11, 2019. As part of the campaign, ISIS’s provinces in Syria, Iraq and throughout the world carried out attacks in revenge for the defeat suffered in Al-Baghouz. ISIS reported that eight of its provinces had carried out over 92 attacks in more than 80 different regions. The largest number of attacks was carried out by the Iraq Province (37, a third of the total number of the raids of vengeance). It was followed by the Syria Province (30), West Africa (5), Sinai (5), Somalia (5), Libya (2), Khorasan (3), and the Caucasus (1). The attacks were mostly directed at security targets, taking relatively unsophisticated forms: shooting, detonation of IEDs, ambushes, assaults against camps and facilities, and the targeted killing of “collaborators.” There were very few suicide bombing attacks or combined attacks. According to ISIS, a total of 362 people were killed and wounded as part of the campaign[5].
  • “Raids of attrition” lasted for three days, taking place on June 1-3, 2019. The campaign was conducted at the end of the month of Ramadan. This wave of attacks, similarly to its predecessor that was held following the defeat in Al-Baghouz, had the purpose of putting through the message that ISIS was enhancing its presence and activity around the globe, even after the blow that it had sustained. The campaign included 61 attacks, most of them in Syria and Iraq, in relatively unsophisticated forms. According to data released by ISIS, a total of 332 people were killed and wounded[6].
  • “Raids of attrition” lasted for nine days, taking place on August 3-11, 2019. Its purpose was to continue encouraging ISIS supporters and strengthen the message that ISIS was enhancing its presence and activity around the world. The campaign included 152 attacks, in which 592 people were killed and wounded. Most of the attacks (about 70%) took place in Syria and Iraq. As part of the campaign, the operatives also carried out a small number of attacks in the Sinai Peninsula, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, Yemen, and Mozambique[7].
  • “Raids of vengeance for the killing of the two sheikhs” lasted for eight days, taking place on December 22-29, 2019. The campaign was held following the killing of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the organization’s spokesman Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajer. A total of 139 attacks were carried out, mostly in Syria and Iraq, ISIS’s “core countries,” but there was also a rise in ISIS’s activity in Nigeria and Burkina Faso. Attacks carried out as part of the campaign were small to medium in size, without any noteworthy show-case attacks. According to ISIS, 355 people were killed and wounded[8].
  • “Raids of attrition” lasted for 10 days, taking place on May 14-23, 2020, during the month of Ramadan. As part of the campaign, over 100 attacks were carried out (ISIS reported 228), in which 491 people were killed and wounded. Most of the attacks were carried out in Iraq (over half) and in Syria (about a quarter). Attacks were also carried out, albeit far fewer, in other ISIS provinces in Africa and Asia[9].
  • “Raids of attrition” lasted for 13 days, taking place on July 22-August 3, 2020. According to ISIS, a total of 136 attacks were carried out in 11 provinces, in which 565 people were killed and wounded. The largest number of attacks took place in Iraq (43), followed by Syria (35); West Africa (18); Sinai (16); Khorasan (6); Yemen (4); Central Africa (4); Somalia (4); Bangladesh (3); East Asia (2); and Pakistan (1). The largest number of casualties (122) was in the Khorasan Province, due to a large-scale attack that ISIS carried out in a prison. According to ISIS, there were 122 casualties in the province, followed by the West Africa Province with 120; Sinai Province with 117 (due to a large-scale attack in northern Sinai); Iraq (86); and Syria (77). In the other provinces, there were relatively few casualties (Al-Naba weekly, as posted on Telegram on August 6, 20202)[10].
  • “Raids of Response to the Call” lasted for eight days, taking place on October 20-27, 2020. According to ISIS’s data, 75 attacks were carried out as part of the campaign, in which there were 430 casualties. Most of the attacks were carried out in Iraq (48). The two most noteworthy attacks were suicide bombing attacks carried out in Afghanistan (Al-Naba weekly, Telegram, October 29, 2020). According to ISIS, Afghanistan had the largest number of casualties (156) since two multi-casualty suicide bombing attacks were carried out in its territory (Telegram, October 29, 2020)[11].

[1] See the ITIC's Information Bulletin from March 22, 2022, “ISIS confirms the death of its leader and announces Abu al-Hassan al-Hashimi al-Qurashi as the new leader
[2] Regarding the announcement of the campaign, see the ITIC's Information Bulletin from April 19, 2022, “ISIS announces campaign to avenge the death of its former leader and spokesman”
[3] An examination conducted by the ITIC revealed that there were 208 ISIS statements in which it claimed responsibility for the attacks.
[4] According to the infographic, the campaign started on April 18, 2022. However, there is one attack reported by ISIS on April 17, 2022, as part of the campaign (it may have been included after the fact).
[5] See the ITIC's Information Bulletin from April 15, 2019, “Wave of orchestrated ISIS terrorist retaliation attacks around the globe: overview and assessment”
[6] From Spotlight on Global Jihad (May 30 – June 4, 2019): https://www.terrorism-info.org.il/app/uploads/2019/06/E_123_19.pdf . See also http://www.islamist-movements.com/47594
[7] From Spotlight on Global Jihad (August 8-14, 2019): https://www.terrorism-info.org.il/app/uploads/2019/08/E_187_19.pdf . See also: https://pastethis.to/vgE3VOFdfrH https://twitter.com/rita_katz/status/1173684080900268032
[8] https://archive.org/search.php?query=subject%3A%22%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AB%D8%A3%D8%B1%22&sort=-avg_rating;-num_reviews&page=3
[9] From Spotlight on Global Jihad (May 21-26, 2020): https://www.terrorism-info.org.il/en/spotlight-global-jihad-may-21-26-2020/. In addition, see https://www.mha.gov.sg/docs/hta_libraries/publications/08-terrorism.pdf
[10] From Spotlight on Global Jihad (August 6-12, 2020): https://www.terrorism-info.org.il/en/spotlight-on-global-jihad-august-6-12-2020/
[11] From Spotlight on Global Jihad (October 29-November 4, 2020): https://www.terrorism-info.org.il/en/spotlight-on-global-jihad-october-29-november-4-2020/