Spotlight on Global Jihad April 23-29, 2015

Main events of the week[1]

  • This week, fighting continued in Iraq between ISIS and the Iraqi Army and Shiite militias in the Sunni province of Al-Anbar (the cities of Ramadi and Al-Baghdadi). At this stage, the Iraqi Army appears to have repelled ISIS’s attempts to take over these cities. ISIS also attacked border crossings between Iraq and Jordan (Tarbil) and between Iraq and Saudi Arabia (Arar). The attack on the Tarbil crossing stopped the movement of passengers and trucks between Iraq and Jordan. The attack illustrates the economic and security threat posed to Jordan inherent in the activity of jihadi organizations near its borders with Iraq and Syria.
  • In Syria’s Idlib province, the Al-Nusra Front and its allies managed to take over the town of Jisr al-Shughur, about 45 km southwest of Idlib, near the road leading to Latakia, on the coastal plain. They also took over the Al-Qirmid army camp, southeast of Idlib. The achievements of the Al-Nusra Front and its allies in the Idlib province may now pose a threat to the Syrian regime’s strongholds on the coastal plain, and the city of Latakia in particular.
  • ISIS continues to establish itself in Libya, amid clashes with the Libyan Army and with rival Islamist militias. ISIS claimed responsibility for the bomb explosion at the Spanish Embassy in Tripoli, the latest in a series of attacks against foreign embassies in Tripoli in recent months. In addition, an ISIS network was uncovered in Saudi Arabia, which had intended to carry out attacks against Saudi government targets and against the US Embassy in Riyadh.

 The international campaign against ISIS

US and coalition airstrikes

  • This week, the US and coalition forces continued their airstrikes against ISIS targets. During the week, over one hundred airstrikes were carried out in Syria and Iraq. Following are the locations of the main airstrikes (CENTCOM website):
  • Syria– the airstrikes were concentrated in Al-Hasakah, Deir al-Zor and Kobani (Ayn al-Arab). The airstrikes damaged ISIS’s tactical units, battle positions, an IED storage depot, and vehicles.
  • Iraq– airstrikes were carried out in Baiji, Fallujah, Ramadi, Rawa, Tal Afar, Al-Qaim, Mosul, Kirkuk and Sinjar. The airstrikes damaged ISIS’s tactical units, trucks, armored vehicles, heavy machinery, battle positions, buildings, checkpoints, weapons stores, and tunnels.

Statement by a senior US official about the campaign against ISIS

  • A senior official in the Obama administration said that the United States was looking for ways to speed up and streamline the airstrikes against ISIS.This statement was made in response to a complaint made by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi during his visit to the United States, that the United States is taking too long to respond (to events on the ground) by means of airstrikes. The senior official mentioned battles in built-up areas, when fighters on both sides are in motion and pilots are not always able to immediately identify ISIS operatives from the air. He said that the US is considering training Iraqi special forces to help the US identify targets, thereby improving the quality of the airstrikes (New York Times, April 23, 2015).

Main developments in Syria

Damascus and its environs: the Al-Yarmouk refugee camp and the city of Al-Hajar al-Aswad

  • Palestinian organizations fighting against ISIS (most of them supporters of the Syrian regime) made significant progress on the ground during the week. It is estimated that Palestinian forces now control around 40% of the Al-Yarmouk refugee camp. ISIS and its supporters control around 40%. Lines of contact between the two sides constitute around 20% of the camp (Sama, 24 April 2015). This week, battles between ISIS and its opponents continued in the city of Al-Hajar al-Aswad, bordering on the Al-Yarmouk refugee camp.
  • According to Khaled Abd al-Majid, secretary of the coalition of Palestinian forces fighting in the camp and secretary general of the pro-Syrian Palestinian Popular Struggle Front (PPSF), ISIS operatives barricaded themselves in several areas in the southern part of the Al-Yarmouk refugee camp (around Al-Wasim Mosque and Filastin Hospital). A PPSF operative, Abu Kifah Ukazi, said that the fighters in the camp managed to liberate a large part of the Al-Rija area, located in the southern part of the camp (Sama, April 22, 2015).

Weapons that fell into the hands of ISIS

  • On April 26, 2015, the Twitter account of ISIS’s information office in the Damascus province posted photos of weapons that fell into the hands of ISIS during a battle between ISIS and forces of the Syrian regime in the area of Jabal Mihassah, around 120 km northeast of Damascus. The weapons that fell into ISIS’s hands include a T-55 tank, Kalashnikov assault rifles, RPG launchers, a 12-tube mobile rocket launcher, anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons, etc. (ISIS-affiliated Twitter account; dump.to, April 26, 2015).

Idlib province

  • The Al-Nusra Front and additional Islamic organizations in the coalition that occupied the city of Idlib (Jaysh al-Fatah) continue to exert pressure on the Syrian regime throughout the entire province. This week, the coalition recorded achievements in two attacks designed to remove Syrian forces from two outposts in the Idlib province. The battle zones in the Idlib province:
  • Jisr al-Shughur the rebels took control of the city, which dominates the road leading from Idlib to Latakia (located about 45 km southwest of Idlib and about 76 km northeast of Latakia, along the coast). The Al-Nusra Front and its allies announced that the city had been liberated from the forces of the Syrian regime. Some of the photos posted on the Al-Nusra Front’s official Twitter account indicate that the operatives control checkpoints in the city center and the government hospital, which served as a Syrian Army base (The Al-Nusra Front’s official Twitter account, April 22, 2015).
  • The Al-Qirmid army camp – the rebels took control of the camp, which is located about 12 km southeast of Jisr al-Shughur. The Al-Nusra Front claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing attack at a checkpoint located near the army base. In addition, forty Al-Nusra Front operatives attacked the army camp and clashed with Syrian Army forces. On April 27, 2015, the Al-Nusra Front carried out a second suicide bombing attack in the area and managed to occupy the camp (The Al-Nusra Front’s media foundation, April 27, 2015).

1 The city of Jisr al-Shughur a stronghold of the Syrian regime

Right: The city of Jisr al-Shughur, located near the road to Latakia (left), a stronghold of the Syrian regime (Google Maps)

  • On April 22, 2015, the Al-Nusra Front published an official announcement intended for the residents of Jisr al-Shughur, calling on them to remain in their homes. According to the announcement, Al-Nusra Front operatives were at the entrance to the city. Another announcement was intended for the Alawite residents of the area, calling on them to fight against the forces of the Assad regime and to return to “the proper way according to Islam” (The Al-Nusra Front’s official Twitter account, April 22, 2015). 
Hence, the Al-Nusra Front and its allies (Jaysh al-Fatah) continue to exert pressure on the Syrian regime in the Idlib province in northwest Syria. In the month that has passed since the takeover of the city of Idlib, they expanded their areas of control and managed to occupy the city of Jisr al-Shughur and the Al-Qirmid army camp, south of Idlib. On the other hand, the Syrian Army’s “counter-offensive” over the city of Idlib, which was reported in the media, has not yet taken place. In the ITIC’s assessment, the achievements of the rebels in the Idlib province may pose a substantial threat to the Syrian regime’s strongholds on the coastal plain, with an emphasis of the city of Latakia.


Homs province

  • According to media reports, the Syrian Army recorded several achievements in the battles against ISIS operatives in the Homs province. The Syrian Army reportedly expanded its presence in the province’s Jubb al-Jarrah region.The Syrian Army is fighting against ISIS operatives, with the goal of preventing them from reaching the city. The Syrian Army reportedly surrounded the city in order to try to prevent ISIS operatives from entering it (Al-Mayadeen, April 23, 2015). 
  • According to the Lebanese newspaper As-Safir, after fierce battles, Syrian Army forces managed to regain control over the Sha’er, Jahar and Al-Moher oil and gas fields in the eastern part of the Homs province, which had previously been occupied by ISIS. According to reports, ISIS operatives continue to attack the area of the oil fields in order to regain control, but so far without success (As-Safir, 25 April 2015).

As-Suwayda province

  • An ISIS-affiliated Twitter account posted photos showing that ISIS operatives had shot down a Syrian aircraft near the Khalkhalah military airfield in the As-Suwayda province, southern Syria. ISIS also published photos of the body of a Syrian pilot with the rank of captain. The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that ISIS was indeed holding the body of a Syrian pilot, whose plane was shot down on the outskirts As-Suwayda (ISIS-affiliated Twitter account, April 24, 2015; SOHR, April 25, 2015). According to another version, the Syrian plane crashed during a training exercise near the airfield and was not shot down by ISIS (Al-Arabiya, April 24, 2015).

Main developments in Iraq

Al-Anbar province

Ramadi and Al-Baghdadi

  • This week as well, fighting continued between ISIS and the Iraqi Army and Shiite militias in the city of Ramadi, capital of the Sunni Al-Anbar province, and in the city of Al-Baghdadi, located northwest of Ramadi (between the cities of Hit and Haditha). The situation in these two cities:
  • The city of Ramadi isunder attack by ISIS, which is trying to take it over. Last week it was reported that the Iraqi Army had repelled an attack mounted by ISIS from government buildings in the city. According to reports from April 24, 2015, the Iraqi Army managed to advance towards the city hospital and took over the Al-Houz bridge, a major traffic artery used for conveying supplies and reinforcements to ISIS operatives located in the city (Al-Hurra, April 24, 2015). At this point, the battles over the control of the city are still ongoing.
  • The city of Al-Baghdadi: On April 23, 2015, the Iraqi Army announced that ISIS forces had been removed from most of the Al-Baghdadi area. Since then there have been reports indicating that the Iraqi Army has not yet established itself in the region. On April 27, 2015, “Iraqi security sources” reported that the Iraqi Army had prevented a renewed attempt by ISIS to take control of the city of Al-Baghdadi and its environs (Iraqi Defense Ministry website, April 23, 2015; Akhbar al-Iraq, April 24, 2015; Al-Sabah al-Jadid, April 27, 2015).

The city of Fallujah

  • The city of Fallujah, ISIS’s stronghold in the Al-Anbar province, is under pressure from the Iraqi Army, apparently as a “counterweight” for ISIS’s attack in Ramadi and Al-Baghdadi. Iraqi security sources in the Al-Anbar province reported that on April 23, 2015, the Iraqi Army attacked a convoy of cars, including that of Abu Hamza al-Muhajer, ISIS’s leader in Fallujah. The attack was carried out in the industrial zone of Fallujah. Abu Hamza and four of his aides were killed. One of them was in charge of setting off car bombs in the region (Kurdish Globe, April 27, 2015). It was also reported that in Al-Karamah, near Fallujah, fierce battles were being waged between the Iraqi Army and ISIS (Akhbar al-Iraq, April 24, 2015; Iraqi Defense Ministry, April 26, 2015).

ISIS’s takeover of the Tharthar dam on the Euphrates River

  • A video posted by ISIS’s Aamak News Agency claims that ISIS has taken over the Tharthar dam on the Euphrates River, north of Fallujah. ISIS operatives attacked the dam area using car bombs and attacked Iraqi military forces deployed at the site. The video shows an ISIS flag flying on the local radio tower (see below). Iraqi media confirmed that 140 soldiers were killed in the battle over the dam, including senior officers. It was reported that the Iraqi Army had declared a campaign to cleanse the dam area within a short time and with the air support of the coalition forces (Reuters, April 25, 2015).

The Tarbil border crossing (the Iraq-Jordan border)

  • This week, ISIS detonated three car bombs at the Tarbil border crossing on the Iraq-Jordan border. As a result of the explosions, which were carried out on the Iraqi side of the border, at least four Iraqi security personnel were killed. Eight injured were transferred to Jordan for initial treatment. Following the explosions, the Jordanian authorities took a number of security measures and announced the temporary termination of the movement of trucks and passengers through the border crossing (Al-Maqar, April 25, 2015).
  • ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack on April 25, 2015. According to an announcement issued by ISIS, the attack was carried out by three foreign suicide bombers, whose codenames were Abu Bakr the Frenchman, Abdullah the Belgian, and Abu Ja’far the Senegalese. According to the announcement, the attack was directed against the central checkpoint at the border crossing (AFP, April 25, 2015; Aamaq News and an ISIS-affiliated Twitter account, April 25, 2015).
  • ISIS’s attack on the Tarbil border crossing between Iraq and Jordan, and the Al-Nusra Front’s takeover of the Nasib border crossing between Syria and Jordan, reflect the economic and security threat posed to Jordan by the establishment of jihadi organizations on its border. The takeover of border crossings in Iraq and Syria could disrupt the movement of goods and people between Jordan and its neighbors, cause the country economic losses, and facilitate contact between the jihadi organizations and their supporters in Jordan.

2 The three suicide bombers

Left: The three suicide bombers. Top: Abu Bakr the Frenchman; Center: Abdullah the Belgian; Bottom: Abu Ja’far the Senegalese (ISIS-affiliated Twitter account, April 25, 2015) Right: Leaflet issued by ISIS claiming responsibility for the attack on the Tarbil border crossing

The Arar border crossing (on the Iraq-Saudi Arabia border)

  • On the same day as the attack at the Tarbil border crossing (April 25, 2015), one or more car bombs were detonated in an Iraqi outpost on the border with Saudi Arabia. After the explosion, ISIS attacked the outpost. According to reports by ISIS’s media arm, Aamaq, a large number of Iraqi soldiers were killed in the attack (Aamaq, April 25, 2015).

Salah al-Din province

  • During the past week, fighting continued in and around the city of Baiji between ISIS and Iraqi Army forces, which are attempting to regain control of the city and the refinery compound. According to a report from April 26, 2015, ISIS set fire to oil storage tanks (Sky News in Arabic, April 26, 2015). The Iraqi Army took over the southern part of the refineries in the city, but the fighting for control of the city and the refinery complex still continues (Al-Sabah al-Jadid, April 25, 2015).

Nineveh province

  • ISIS’s media arm in the Nineveh province (which ISIS calls the Al-Jazeera province) has published photos from a performance put on by young members of the “Lion Cubs of the Caliphate” (Ashbal al-Khilafah) youth organization. The performance was part of the ceremony marking the end of the boys’ training course at the Islamic religious institute (Sharia Institute). The boys performed wearing masks and uniforms (Al-Minbar al-I’lami al-Jihadi, April 25, 2015).

The conduct of the Islamic State

The operation of medical services in the Al-Raqqah province by foreign doctors

  • On April 24, 2015, ISIS posted a video showing the advanced medical services that it provides to the residents of the Al-Raqqah province, ISIS’s stronghold in Syria. The video reveals an Australian doctor, an Indian doctor and doctors from other countries who have joined the Islamic State. According to recent reports, nine British medical students have traveled from Sudan to Syria, apparently with the intention of joining ISIS (Daily Mail, April 26, 2015).
  • The Australian doctor shown in the video, codenamed Abu Yusuf the Australian, works in the department of pediatrics in the hospital in Al-Raqqah. He says that he perceives his work at the hospital as part of jihad which is intended to help the Islamic nation. He notes that he is saddened by the fact that Muslims are working at hospitals in the West at a time when they are needed in the Islamic State. He calls on all Muslim doctors in the West to migrate to the Islamic State.An Indian doctor also appears in the video, who notes that doctors from various countries have joined the Islamic State. He says “We have a Russian doctor, a Sri Lankan, an Australian and a Tunisian”. He subsequently calls on Muslim doctors in every field of medicine to join the ranks of the Islamic State (YouTube, April 24, 2015). 

3 Indian doctor who works at ISISs hospital and Australian doctor

Left: Indian doctor who works at ISIS’s hospital. Right: Australian doctor who calls on Muslim doctors in the West to join the Islamic State (YouTube, April 24, 2015)

The English name of ISIS’s medical services is Islamic State Health Service (ISHS), which is similar to the name of the British National Health Service (NHS). A video issued by ISIS also shows a poster that is very reminiscent of a British poster showing doctors with stethoscopes, wearing light blue scrubs (Daily Mail, April 26, 2015; Charlie Winter’s Twitter page, April 24, 2015). In the ITIC’s assessment, the visual similarity stems from propaganda considerations designed to praise the advanced services provided by ISIS to the population. It could also be an indication of the large proportion of doctors and healthcare professionals from Britain in the medical services provided by ISIS to the population in the areas under its control.

Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula

The Egyptian campaign against ISIS’s branch in the Sinai Peninsula

  • Egyptian security forces continue to carry out extensive security activity to suppress the operation of ISIS’s branch in the Sinai Peninsula, especially in the northern part. As part of this activity, the Egyptian security forces attacked terrorist operatives; detonated explosive charges; confiscated weapons, cars and motorcycles; and attacked terrorist infrastructure and arrested several dozen operatives. However, the Egyptian security forces were unable to cleanse the areas under ISIS’s control in the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula, and the campaign against it continues unabatedly.
  • On April 25, 2015, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi issued a presidential decree declaring a state of emergency in several regions in northern Sinai. The order came into effect on April 26, 2015 and is for a period of three months. It includes the imposition of a curfew in areas where a state of emergency was declared (Al-Youm al-Sabea, April 25, 2015).
  • ISIS operatives in the Sinai Peninsula continued to carry out terrorist attacks against the Egyptian security forces. Several noteworthy incidents:
  • April 24, 2015 – Three soldiers were killed in an attack against a tank in southern Sheikh Zuweid (Al-Jazeera TV, April 24, 2015). ISIS’s Sinai province claimed responsibility for the attack (ISIS’s official Twitter account, April 24, 2015).
  • April 26, 2015 – ISIS’s Sinai province claimed responsibility for the destruction of an Egyptian M60 armored vehicle (The Sinai province’s official Twitter account, April 26, 2015).
  • April 26, 2015 – armed men stopped a delivery truck of the Egyptian security forces on the road leading from Al-Arish to Rafah, set it on fire and abducted the driver (Al-Masry al-Youm, April 26, 2015). The Sinai province claimed responsibility for burning the truck, on its official Twitter page.
  • April 27, 2015 – an IED exploded near the Egyptian security forces in Sheikh Zuweid. There were no casualties (Al-Masry al-Youm, April 27, 2015).

Announcement of a new province of the Islamic State in Upper Egypt

  • On April 26, 2015, in light of the anniversary of the so-called “liberation of the Sinai Peninsula,” Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis announced its intention to establish a new province in Upper Egypt (the area stretching from the city of Aswan to the outskirts of Cairo).The organization warned the Egyptian security forces that it intended to carry out terrorist attacks against them (Al-Jazeera.net, April 27, 2015).
It is unclear whether the new province will actually be established or whether the announcement was designed to intimidate the Egyptian authorities. The choice of Upper Egypt, like the Sinai Peninsula, is apparently due to the fact that it is a harsh topographic area where the Egyptian regime’s control is limited. In any case, the announcement is consistent with ISIS’s ambition to move the focus of its attacks from the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt itself.


The dispute between ISIS and the Tarabin tribe[2]

  • On April 18, 2015, the Tarabin tribe’s dignitaries published a manifesto calling on tribes in Sinai to follow them and renounce ISIS. They claimed that ISIS dishonored the residents and that a bloody conflict was being waged against it that requires revenge (Tahrir News, April 18, 2015). It was also reported that the tribespeople, along with members of other tribes, attacked several positions of Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, ISIS’s branch, in southern Sheikh Zuweid (Al-Youm al-Sabea, April 27, 2015).
  •  In response, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis operatives executed Abd al-Basset Ghanin al-Astal, a member of the Tarabin tribe. They also destroyed the home of another man in southern Rafah (Akhbar Sinaa al-Aan, April 27, 2015). Operatives of ISIS’s Sinai province distributed leaflets to the Tarabin tribespeople entitled “Carrot and Stick,” threatening all those who assent to the Tarabin tribe’s call to confront ISIS (ISIS-affiliated Twitter account, April 25, 2015).

4 Operatives of ISISs Sinai province distributing leaflets

Operatives of ISIS’s Sinai province distributing leaflets warning residents not to assent to the Tarabin tribe’s manifesto (ISIS-affiliated Twitter account, April 25, 2015)

ISIS operatives are trying to attract Bedouin tribespeople to their ranks. The Tarabin tribe’s manifesto, and the reaction of the operatives of ISIS’s Sinai province, may indicate the beginning of an open confrontation between operatives of ISIS’s branch in Sinai and the Bedouin tribes, whose support ISIS strives to gain.  ISIS operatives have apparently adopted a carrot and stick approach – granting aid to tribespeople who collaborate with them while threatening and oppressing their opponents. 


The global jihad in other countries

Yemen

  • According to Arab media reports, ISIS has set up a new military framework in Yemen by the name of the Green Brigade. According to ISIS, on April 23, 2015, this military framework attacked vehicles of the Houthi rebels in the city of Yarim (the city is located in the province of Dhamar, Yemen, approximately 100 km from the capital, Sana’a). The report was posted on a Twitter account (Al-Arabiya, April 23, 2015). The next day, ISIS published a video claiming that it had established a formal presence in Yemen. The video shows uniformed operatives armed with assault rifles in a desert landscape. The operatives in the video are referred to as the “Soldiers of the Caliphate in Yemen” (Al-Arabiya, April 24, 2015).
ISIS previously claimed that it had established a branch of the Islamic State in Yemen. On March 20, 2015, ISIS claimed responsibility for several suicide bombing attacks against Shiite mosques in Sana’a, Yemen’s capital. Now ISIS is claiming responsibility for another attack, which extended beyond Sana’a. Despite these announcements, it is not yet clear whether ISIS really has a significant presence in Yemen. It should be noted that the dominant jihadi organization based in southern Yemen is Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a branch of Al-Qaeda that has a hostile relationship with ISIS.

Libya

  • On April 20, 2015, a bomb exploded at the Spanish Embassy in Tripoli. There were no casualties.  Limited damage was caused to the walls of the embassy building and to vehicles parked beside it. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack in posts on social networks affiliated with it (Al-Jazeera TV, April 20, 2015).
  • In recent months, foreign embassies in Tripoli have been a target for attacks, for which ISIS claimed responsibility. The details are as follows:
  • On February 22, 2015, ISIS claimed responsibility for an attack against the home of the Iranian ambassador in Tripoli (Al-Arabiya, February 22, 2015).
  • On April 12, 2015, an armed man attacked the South Korean Embassy in Tripoli.Two local security guards were killed and another security guard was wounded.
  • On April 13, 2015, an IED exploded at the gate to the Moroccan Embassy in Tripoli.There were no casualties. Slight damage was caused. An ISIS-affiliated group claimed responsibility for the attacks on April 12 and 13 in a tweet posted on its Twitter page (www.nbcnews.com, April 13, 2015).
  • In Libya, as in Syria, there are differences of opinion between ISIS and other Islamic organizations, sometimes leading to violent confrontations.On April 23, 2015, there was a clash between ISIS operatives and Libyan Dawn (Fajr Libya), an alliance of anti-ISIS Islamic groups in the area of Sirte. ISIS posted photos of buildings in Sirte that were damaged in attacks on ISIS by Libyan Dawn (Twitter account affiliated with ISIS in Libya, April 23, 2015).
  • On April 23, 2015, Libyan Dawn published a map of the area of Sirte showing the areas under the control of the various forces operating in the region, including ISIS. According to the map, ISIS controls the port area and its environs, but does not control the airport, which is located outside the city and is controlled by the Libyan government (Libyan Dawn’s Twitter account, April 23, 2015).

5 Map of the areas of control in the area of Sirte

Map of the areas of control in the area of Sirte. The black flags mark the areas under ISIS’s control (Libyan Dawn’s Twitter account, April 23, 2015)

  • In the city of Benghazi, eastern Libya, fighting continued between ISIS operatives and the military forces affiliated with the government of Libya, in the east. Libyan Army forces attacked ISIS targets in the city from the air, while ISIS responded with artillery fire on Libyan Army bases outside the city (ISIS-affiliated Google Plus account, April 25, 2015).

Saudi Arabia

  • According to the spokesman for the Saudi Minister of the Interior, Saudi authorities have arrested 93 operatives affiliated with ISIS in recent months. According to the spokesman, in March 2015, Saudi authorities arrested a group of 65 people involved in planning attacks on homes, prisons and Saudi security forces. Saudi authorities also prevented a car bomb attack against the US Embassy in Riyadh, after receiving information about the plan in mid-March. The US embassy spokesman declined to comment, but it was reported that the United States ceased to provide consular services at the Embassy in Riyadh and at two other missions in Saudi Arabia for one week, starting on March 15, 2015, due to security problems (The Guardian, April 28, 2015).

West Africa

  • Boko Haram reportedly changed its name to “The Islamic State – West Africa”(Al-Nahar al-Jadid, April 24, 2015). The name change is actually a declaration of the establishment of the “Islamic State of West Africa” (Boko Haram-affiliated Twitter account, April 23, 2015).
On March 7, 2015, Abubakar Shekau, leader of Boko Haram, which operates in Nigeria,pledged allegiance to the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The pledge of allegiance was accompanied by a wave of terrorist attacks, in which 54 people were killed and 143 injured. On March 13, 2015, the Al-Furqan Media Foundation, ISIS’s principal media entity, published a speech by its spokesman, Abu Mohammad al-Adnani, declaring thatISIS accepts Boko Haram’s (“the Brothers in West Africa”) pledge of allegiance. Changing Boko Haram’s name to “The Islamic State of West Africa” is another step toward establishing the formal relationship between it and ISIS (as was done in the Sinai Peninsula, Libya and elsewhere). However, it is not clear at this stage whether Boko Haram’s formal relationship with ISIS also has practical implications, for example – whether ISIS will provide Boko Haram with military and financial support.

Counterterrorism and preventive activity

France

  • Sid Ahmed Ghulam, a Frenchman of Algerian descent, 24, was arrested in France after shooting himself in the foot and calling an ambulance. He was arrested on suspicion of planning an attack on several churches in the country. Guns, ammunition and bulletproof vests were found in his car and his house. Documents linking him to Al-Qaeda were also found. Sid Ahmed Ghulam was known to the authorities in France because of his desire to go to Syria to fight alongside jihadi organizations. Police are also investigating the possibility that he murdered a woman in the northeast of the country while staying there with his family (BBC, April 22, 2015).

Italy

  • Authorities in Ravenna, Italy, arrested Noussair Louati, a 27-year-old Tunisian citizen, resident of the city, who had planned to travel to Syria via Germany to join the ranks of ISIS. He reportedly financed his trip with money from drug trafficking. Louati was in contact with ISIS operatives in Syria through Facebook. This was his second attempt to reach Syria after failing the first time due to passport problems (AKI, April 22, 2015).

Britain

  • One of three schoolgirls from East London who fled from Britain to become “jihadi brides” in Syria posted photos of her life in the Islamic State on her Twitter account. The three girls, aged 15-16, flew to Istanbul from Gatwick Airport last month and entered Syria. According to British estimates, around 600 Britons have traveled to Syria and Iraq. British media reported that the police have recently created an “intelligence file” on a group of girls from London who are at risk of travelling to areas controlled by ISIS. In recent weeks, a court prevented several young women from leaving the country after concern was raised that they intended to join the ranks of ISIS, and they were prohibited from leaving the country without the approval of a judge (The Mirror, April 26, 2015).

Malaysia

  • Malaysian authorities arrested a group of 12 people affiliated with ISIS and confiscated materials used to manufacture explosives in their possession. The group is suspected of planning to carry out attacks against a number of “strategic targets” in and around the capital of Malaysia. The suspects, aged 17-41, were arrested in a suburb of the capital, Kuala Lumpur. They reportedly intended to carry out the attacks in response to ISIS’s call to carry out terrorist attacks in secular Muslim countries that are considered enemies of ISIS (The Guardian, April 26, 2015).

 

[1]The weekly publication Spotlight on Global Jihad monitors developments among ISIS and global jihad organizations in Syria and Iraq and in the Middle East as a whole. The publication also monitors terrorist activities around the world, directed, supported or inspired by the global jihad organizations in the Middle East.
[2]Tarabinisa Bedouin tribe originally from Saudi Arabia. The tribespeople came to the Sinai Peninsula and Israel’s Negev Desert around three hundred years ago, and live mainly in the eastern part of the Sinai Peninsula.

 SOURCE: ITIC    DOWNLOAD PDF

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