Spotlight on Global Jihad (September 17-23, 2020) – Intelligence & Terrorism Information Center

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Russian airstrikes northwest of Idlib (Khotwa, September 20, 2020)

Russian airstrikes northwest of Idlib (Khotwa, September 20, 2020)

Five fighters of the Al-Quds Brigade killed in the Jabel Bishri area (Al-Quds Brigade/Latakia Company, September 20, 2020)

Five fighters of the Al-Quds Brigade killed in the Jabel Bishri area (Al-Quds Brigade/Latakia Company, September 20, 2020)

One of the sites destroyed by ISIS operatives (Al-Ayn, September 18, 2020).

One of the sites destroyed by ISIS operatives (Al-Ayn, September 18, 2020).

Main events of the week
  • In the Idlib region, there was an increase in the intensity of the incidents this week. They consisted mainly of exchanges of artillery fire between the Syrian army and Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). There has also been an increase in the number of local penetration attempts by the Syrian army and the forces supporting it in areas controlled by HTS and other rebel organizations.
  • ISIS’s provinces in Africa and Asia continued their routine activity. Noteworthy ISIS attacks in the following places:
    • Syria – ISIS’s intensive activity continued in the Euphrates Valley and in the desert region to its east (activating IEDs, shooting at vehicles, targeted killings, attacking military facilities and positions).
    • Iraq – most of the activity centered on the provinces of Diyala and Kirkuk (sniper fire, activating IEDs, attacking facilities and security forces).
    • In the northern Sinai Peninsula, relative calm prevailed in the conflict zone in the Bir al-Abd-Rabi’a region. ISIS is using its media to leverage its achievements in northern Sinai. ISIS continued to carry out guerrilla warfare against the Egyptian army in the regions of Sheikh Zuweid and Rafah.
    • Mozambique – ISIS operatives took control of several islands in the Indian Ocean near the port of Mocimboa da Praia, which they had previously taken over. There are luxury hotels on these islands, frequented by celebrities from around the world. On one of the islands, ISIS operatives set fire to a luxury hotel.
    • Niger – ISIS claimed responsibility for the execution of eight French aid workers and two Nigerien civilians. The attack took place about a month and a half ago in a village located in a nature reserve, about 60 km southeast of Niamey, the capital of Niger.
    • In Nigeria, a colonel who served as a battalion commander in a Nigerian army task force operating in the northeast of the country was ambushed and killed by ISIS operatives.
ISIS’s activity in the various provinces around the world
Summary of ISIS activity this week
  • On September 17, 2020, ISIS’s Al-Naba’ weekly published an infographic entitled “The Harvest of the Fighters,” summarizing ISIS’s activity on September 10-16, 2020. According the infographic, during this period ISIS carried out 42 attacks around the world, compared to 33 in the previous week (i.e., an increase of about 27% in the scope of the attacks). A total of 16 attacks were carried out in Iraq, four of them in the Kirkuk Province. Attacks were also carried out in ISIS’s other provinces in Africa and Asia: Syria (10); West Africa (7); Sinai Peninsula (5); Pakistan (2); Khorasan (i.e., Afghanistan) (2) (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, September 17, 2020).
  • A total of 138 people were killed and wounded in these attacks, compared to 103 last week (i.e., an increase of about 17% in the number of casualties). The largest number of casualties (58) was in Iraq. The other casualties were in the following provinces: West Africa (26); West Africa (17); Sinai Peninsula (16); Syria (11); Khorasan, i.e., Afghanistan (6); and Pakistan (4) (Telegram, September 10, 2020).
The Syrian arena
The Idlib region

In the Idlib region, there has been an increase in the intensity of the incidents this week. They consisted mainly of artillery exchanges between the Syrian army and HTS and other rebel organizations affiliated with it, mainly south and southwest of Idlib. Russian aircraft carried out airstrikes in Idlib and to its northwest. This week, there was also an evident increase in the number of local penetration attempts by Syrian army forces in areas controlled by HTS in the Idlib region. These attempts did not evolve into significant incidents.

Russian airstrikes
  • On September 20, 2020, over eight Russian fighter jets carried out more than 20 airstrikes in several areas west and northwest of Idlib, including the area of Idlib’s main prison (about 5 km west of Idlib) (Ibaa, Khotwa, September 20, 2020).
Syrian force enters a minefield
  • On September 21, 2020, a force supporting the Syrian army entered an HTS minefield about 30 km south of Idlib. Six fighters of forces supporting the Syrian army and at least one Russian soldier were killed, and other soldiers were wounded. HTS operatives found helmets, night vision goggles and additional equipment at the site (Ibaa, September 22, 2020).
ISIS activity in the Syria Province[1]
The area of Deir ez-Zor and Al-Mayadeen
  • On September 22, 2020, an SDF intelligence operative was targeted by gunfire about 5 km northeast of Al-Mayadeen. He was killed.
  • On September 22, 2020, an IED was activated against an SDF vehicle near the Al-Omar oilfield, about 10 km north of Al-Mayadeen. The passengers were killed or wounded.
  • On September 21, 2020, an SDF fighter was targeted by machine gun fire about 15 km north of Al-Mayadeen. He was killed.
  • On September 20, 2020, an SDF vehicle was targeted by machine gun fire about 50 km south of Al-Mayadeen. One SDF fighter was killed.
  • On September 19, 2020, an SDF intelligence operative was targeted by gunfire about 15 km north of Al-Mayadeen. He was killed.
  • On September 19, 2020, an SDF vehicle was targeted by machine gun fire about 20 km north of Al-Mayadeen. The passengers were killed or wounded.
  • On September 19, 2020, an IED was activated against a Homeland Defense Forces commander in the Al-Mayadeen Desert. He was killed. According to another version, the commander was killed when a mine exploded in the desert region west of Deir ez-Zor (Deir ez-Zor 24 Twitter account, September 20, 2020).
Home Defense Forces commander Faez Ghadban al-Kisoum killed in the explosion of an IED detonated by ISIS (Deir ez-Zor 24 Twitter account, September 20, 2020)
Home Defense Forces commander Faez Ghadban al-Kisoum killed in the explosion of an IED detonated by ISIS (Deir ez-Zor 24 Twitter account, September 20, 2020)
  • On September 18, 2020, an IED was activated against a Syrian army truck in the Al-Mayadeen Desert. The passengers were killed or wounded.
  • On September 18, 2020, ISIS operatives captured a fighter about 15 km southeast of Al-Mayadeen. He was shot to death.
  • On September 17, 2020, an IED was activated against an SDF vehicle on the road leading to the Al-Omar oilfield (about 50 km southeast of Deir ez-Zor). The vehicle was damaged.
  • On September 16, 2020, an SDF checkpoint was targeted by machine gun fire about 80 km north of Deir ez-Zor. Four fighters were killed.
  • On September 15, 2020, ISIS operatives activated an IED at an SDF headquarters in the village of Al-Soussa, about 10 km northeast of Albukamal. The headquarters was damaged.
  • On September 15, 2020, an SDF intelligence operative was targeted by machine gun fire at his home in the Al-Basira area, about 15 km north of Al-Mayadeen. He was killed.
The desert region (Al-Badia)
  • On September 21, 2020, ISIS operatives attacked positions of the Syrian army and the forces supporting it about 60 km east of Al-Sukhnah (Deir ez-Zor 24 Twitter account, September 21, 2020). So far, no organization has claimed responsibility for the attack but it was probably ISIS.
  • On September 20, 2020, a mine was detonated against a vehicle of the Palestinian Al-Quds Brigade[2] in the area of Jabel Bishri, about 80 km west of Deir ez-Zor. Five fighters were killed. The Al-Quds Brigade reportedly operates alongside the Syrian army in search missions around Jabel Bishri and in desert areas (Enab Baladi, a Syrian news website affiliated with the rebel organizations, September 20, 2020).
Jabel Bishri (Geography of Bilad al-Sham – Syria Facebook page, April 11, 2019)     Jabel Bishri (Google Maps).
Right: Jabel Bishri (Google Maps). Left: Jabel Bishri
(Geography of Bilad al-Sham – Syria Facebook page, April 11, 2019)
Syrian-Turkish border area
  • On September 17, 2020, an IED was activated against an SDF vehicle southwest of central Manbij, about 80 km northeast of Aleppo. Two fighters were killed and another was wounded.
The Iraqi arena
Map of the provinces in Iraq (Wikipedia)
Map of the provinces in Iraq
(Wikipedia)
ISIS’s attacks in the various provinces[3]
Diyala Province
  • On September 20, 2020, a sticky bomb was activated against the vehicle of an Iraqi police officer in the city of Baqubah. He was killed.
  • On September 20, 2020, two Iraqi policemen were targeted by sniper fire about 35 km northeast of Baqubah. One policeman was killed and the other was wounded.
  • On September 20, 2020, an IED was activated against the Iraqi counterterrorist unit about 15 km northeast of Baqubah. The passengers were killed or wounded.
  • On September 19, 2020, a Tribal Mobilization fighter was targeted by sniper fire about 80 km northeast of Baqubah. He was killed.
  • On September 19, 2020, ISIS operatives captured an Iraqi policeman about 100 km northeast of Baqubah. He was shot to death.
  • On September 18, 2020, two fighters of the counterterrorist unit were targeted by sniper fire about 15 km northeast of Baqubah. One fighter was killed and the other was wounded.
  • On September 16, 2020, Popular Mobilization fighters were targeted by sniper fire about 60 km north of Baqubah. One fighter was killed and two others were wounded.
  • On September 15, 2020, an Iraqi policeman was targeted by sniper fire about 15 km northeast of Baqubah. He was killed.
Al-Anbar Province
  • On September 20, 2020, an IED was activated against a Popular Mobilization vehicle near the village of Akashat, about 80 km north of Al-Rutba (about 30 km from the Iraqi-Syrian border). Several fighters were killed or wounded.
Kirkuk Province
  • On September 19, 2020, an Iraqi federal police compound was targeted by machine gun fire about 60 km west of Kirkuk. Two policemen were wounded.
  • On September 18, 2020, an IED was activated against an Iraqi police foot patrol in a neighborhood in the northwestern part of the city of Kirkuk. Two policemen were wounded.
  • On September 17, 2020, an IED was activated and machine guns were fired at a Popular Mobilization vehicle about 35 km southwest of Kirkuk. Three fighters were killed. In addition, an assault rifle was seized.
  • On September 14, 2020, a checkpoint of the oil facility police on the Erbil-Kirkuk highway was targeted by machine gun fire. One policeman was killed and three others were wounded. In addition, an IED was activated against another force which arrived at the scene to provide assistance. Five security operatives were wounded.
Nineveh Province
  • On September 20, 2020, ISIS operatives broke into the house of an Iraqi army and (Kurdish) Peshmerga intelligence operative about 35 km northwest of Mosul. He was shot to death.
  • On September 19, 2020, an IED was activated against a Popular Mobilization commander about 70 km south of Mosul. He was killed.
Erbil Province
  • On September 21, 2020, an IED was activated against a Tribal Mobilization vehicle about 60 km southwest of Erbil. One fighter was killed.
Counterterrorist activities by the Iraqi security forces
Nineveh Province
  • On September 21, 2020, forces of the Iraqi National Security Apparatus set up ambushes in the western Nineveh Province, near the border between Iraq and Syria. Three ISIS operatives were captured. One of them, a Syrian national, was in charge of finance. The three admitted having entered Iraq with the intention of setting up squads to carry out attacks (Al-Sumaria, September 21, 2020).
  • On September 19, 2020, teams of the Military Intelligence Directorate and an Iraqi army force captured eight members of an ISIS network about 60 km south of Mosul. One of the detainees was a senior ISIS operative who operated in Mosul at the time (Facebook page of the Iraqi Defense Ministry, September 19, 2020).
  • On September 19, 2020, teams of the Military Intelligence Directorate and an Iraqi army force located an ISIS hiding place about 100 km northwest of Mosul, near the Iraqi-Syrian border. They found weapons and explosives at the site (Facebook page of the Iraqi Defense Ministry, September 19, 2020).
  • On September 17, 2020, teams of the National Security Apparatus in the Nineveh Province captured four men who had served in ISIS’s headquarters in Iraq (Al-Sumaria, September 17, 2020).
Al-Anbar Province
  • On September 19, 2020, teams of the Al-Anbar Intelligence Directorate, which is subordinate to the Iraqi Interior Ministry, captured two wanted ISIS operatives. The two had been commanders in the Al-Anbar Province while ISIS controlled the region. Under interrogation, they admitted having intended to carry out attacks in the Al-Anbar Province (Al-Sumaria, September 19, 2020).
Salah al-Din Province
  • On September 21, 2020, the Iraqi security forces captured 10 wanted ISIS operatives in various areas throughout the Salah al-Din Province. Two of them were captured while trying to escape to a “neighboring country” (apparently, Iran) in the area of Sulaymaniyah (Al-Sumaria, September 21, 2020).
  • On September 19, 2020, the Iraqi security forces exchanged fire with ISIS operatives south of Mosul. Five ISIS operatives were killed (al-hashed.net, September 19, 2020).
A force of the Popular Mobilization and the Iraqi army during an operation against ISIS south of Mosul (al-hashed.net, September 19, 2020)
A force of the Popular Mobilization and the Iraqi army during an operation against ISIS south of Mosul (al-hashed.net, September 19, 2020)
  • On September 19, 2020, teams of the Military Intelligence Directorate and an Iraqi army force located three hiding places and a tunnel belonging to ISIS about 50 km south of Mosul. They found five IEDs and light weapons (Facebook page of the Iraqi Defense Ministry, September 19, 2020).
Kirkuk Province
  • On September 17, 2020, an Iraqi Military Intelligence force detained an ISIS squad in Kirkuk. Among its members were ISIS prominent commanders. The squad was responsible for logistical assistance and the provision of food and electronic equipment in ISIS’s Kirkuk Province. This squad had previously engaged in terrorist activity (Al-Sumaria, September 17, 2020).
Sulaymaniyah Province
  • On September 20, 2020, teams of the Baghdad Intelligence Directorate, carrying out an operation in Sulaymaniyah in coordination with the Kurdish Internal Security force, captured a wanted ISIS operative. Under interrogation, he admitted having participated in attacks against Iraqi security forces and civilians. His interrogation revealed that he was connected to ISIS operatives in the Fallujah area (Al-Sumaria, September 20, 2020).
The Sinai Peninsula
Summary of ISIS activity during a period of about two months and one week in the Bir al-Abd region
  • On September 17, 2020, ISIS published an infographic entitled Harvest of the Fighters in Bir al-Abd, summarizing the organization’s activity in the Rabi’a region between July 10 and September 17, 2020. According to the infographic, during this period ISIS operatives carried out 27 attacks in the region, as follows: planting IEDs (15), sniper fire (7), car bombs driven by suicide bombers (3), ambush (1) and one showcase attack. More than 150 people (mostly Egyptian soldiers, including 10 officers) were killed and wounded in these attacks. In addition, five tanks and seven armored vehicles were destroyed or damaged (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, September 17, 2020)
Media exploitation of the success of ISIS’s attacks in the Rabi’a region . Infographic summarizing ISIS’s activity in the Bir al-Abd region (Telegram, September 17, 2020)
Media exploitation of the success of ISIS’s attacks in the Rabi’a region[4]. Infographic summarizing ISIS’s activity in the Bir al-Abd region (Telegram, September 17, 2020)
The Sheikh Zuweid region
  • On September 20, 2020, an IED was activated against an Egyptian army foot patrol south of Sheikh Zuweid. Several soldiers were killed or wounded (Telegram, September 22, 2020).
  • On September 20, 2020, an Egyptian army foot patrol was targeted by machine gun fire south of Sheikh Zuweid. Several soldiers were killed or wounded (Telegram, September 22, 2020).
The Rafah region
  • On September 20, 2020, an Egyptian army bulldozer in western Rafah was targeted by gunfire. The bulldozer was damaged (Telegram, September 22, 2020).
ISIS’s activity around the globe[5]

Africa

Mozambique
  • On September 15, 2020, ISIS-affiliated operatives reportedly took control of two islands in the Indian Ocean near the Port of Mocimboa da Praia in northeastern Mozambique (the port that was taken over by ISIS on August 12, 2020). According to the reports, these are the islands of Vamizi, about 45 km northeast of the Port of Mocimboa da Praia, and Mecungo (according to another version – Metundo), about 15 km south of Vamizi.
  • There are luxury hotels on both of these islands, frequented by celebrities from around the world. ISIS operatives reportedly demolished the hotels, ordered residents to leave and implemented sharia on the islands. Later, on September 20, 2020, ISIS operatives reportedly set fire to a hotel on the island of Situ, which is considered a particularly prestigious hotel resort, in an archipelago located about 180 km south of the island of Vamizi. The hotel was badly damaged (AFP, September 15, 2020; Daily Telegraph, September 20, 2020; British Sun, September 17, 2020; www.jihadwatch.org, September 20, 2020).
The two islands taken over by ISIS (Google Maps)    One of the sites destroyed by ISIS operatives (Al-Ayn, September 18, 2020).
Right: One of the sites destroyed by ISIS operatives (Al-Ayn, September 18, 2020). Left: The two islands taken over by ISIS (Google Maps)
Nigeria
Killing of a senior Nigerian army officer
  • On September 21, 2020, operatives of ISIS’s West Africa Province ambushed a Nigerian army force. Nigerian army Colonel Dahiru Bako was wounded and later died of his wounds. Colonel Bako served as commander of the Nigerian army’s 25th Battalion in a task force stationed in Damboa (about 80 km southwest of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State) (HumAngle.ng, Nigerian news website covering Africa, September 21, 2020).
Nigerian army Colonel Dahiru Bako who was killed in an ISIS ambush (HumAngle.ng, Nigerian news website covering Africa, September 21, 2020)
Nigerian army Colonel Dahiru Bako who was killed in an ISIS ambush
(HumAngle.ng, Nigerian news website covering Africa, September 21, 2020)
  • On September 21, 2020, ISIS operatives attacked a Nigerian army checkpoint about 3 km south of the border between Nigeria and Niger. Several soldiers were killed and several others were wounded.
  • On September 20, 2020, ISIS operatives ambushed and fired machine guns at Nigerian soldiers southwest of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State. Several soldiers were killed and others were wounded. In addition, weapons and ammunition were seized.
  • On September 20, 2020, ISIS operatives ambushed and fired machine guns at Nigerian soldiers about 100 km northeast of Maiduguri. Several soldiers were killed or wounded. In addition, weapons and ammunition were seized.
  • On September 16, 2020, ISIS operatives attacked a headquarters of a force supporting the Nigerian army in a town in the Nigeria-Niger border area in northeastern Nigeria. Nine fighters were killed.
  • On September 16, 2020, ISIS operatives ambushed Nigerian soldiers about 80 km northeast of Maiduguri. Three soldiers were killed and others were wounded. In addition, weapons and ammunition were seized.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • On September 17, 2020, ISIS operatives attacked a Congolese army compound about 160 km northeast of Beni (about 90 km northwest of the border between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda). One soldier was killed. In addition, weapons and ammunition were seized.
  • On September 17, 2020, a Congolese soldier was targeted by machine gun fire in the area of Beni, in the northeast of the country. He was killed.
Niger

On August 9, 2020, ISIS operatives on motorcycles attacked eight French aid workers and two Nigerien civilians on the outskirts of Kouré (a rural community located in a nature reserve, about 60 km southeast of Niamey, the capital of Niger). All eight were taken prisoner and executed. The aid organizations that the French citizens worked for confirmed their connection with the organizations (Fox News and BBC, September 9, 2020). On September 17, 2020, ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack (ISIS’s Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, September 17, 2020).

Right: The report in Al-Naba’ showing the photos of two of the French aid workers who were executed (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, September 17, 2020) Left: The scene of the attack in the town of Kouré, about 60 km southeast of Niamey, Niger (Google Maps).
Right: The report in Al-Naba’ showing the photos of two of the French aid workers who were executed (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, September 17, 2020) Left: The scene of the attack in the town of Kouré, about 60 km southeast of Niamey, Niger (Google Maps).
The spread of ISIS and its provinces in the Sahel
Overview

An article by investigative journalist Sam Peters addresses the circumstances that led to the spread of ISIS in Africa. He claims that societal, local and regional discontent are perhaps the greatest factor in fueling the rise of ISIS in Africa. In 2018, it was estimated that as many as nine Islamic State cells existed across Africa. Since then, the number of ISIS fighters has increased considerably and rapidly. Today, ISIS fighters control territories in North, West, East and Southern Africa and pose a real threat to the stability of the African continent[6].

  • The four most influential ISIS provinces on the African continent are: West Africa (Islamic State West Africa Province – ISWAP), better known as Boko Haram; Greater Sahara (Islamic State in Greater Sahara – ISGS); Central Africa (Islamic State Central Africa Province – IS-CAP); and Libya (Islamic State in Libya). Operatives of the Greater Sahara and Central Africa provinces carry out terrorist attacks throughout the Sahel, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mozambique. ISIS operatives have also been recruited in the Central African Republic, Chad, Kenya, Tanzania and Somalia. In the province of Cabo Delgado in northern Mozambique, a group by the name of Ahlu Sunna Wa-Jamma’ or Ansar al-Sunna was reinforced by fighters from across East Africa. Three years of insurgency have taken the lives of hundreds of civilians in the region.
  • Although ISIS in Africa is not as dominant as it was in Syria and Iraq, its ideological message is constantly spreading. Societal, local and regional discontent are perhaps the greatest factor in fueling the rise of ISIS in Africa. Ethnic division rivalling the religious schism between Shia and Sunni, coupled with Africa’s own environment of virulent religious competition, makes for willing recruits in numerous disaffected regions. Relying on youth unrest and poverty as catalysts for recruitment into extremism, ISIS has been able to swell its ranks immensely.
Can the spread of Islamic terrorism in Africa, and especially West Africa, be stopped?
  • In Nigeria, where the largest African led battle against extremism has raged for over a decade, repeated attempts at eradicating Islamic fundamentalism have met with failure. The same has proved true in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, where military ventures supported by former colonial powers (principally, France) have created a plethora of opponents. Long term peace and stability are impossible without major investment in socio-economic development and governmental reform. Corruption, which enables the growth of fundamentalism by weakening state authority and removing faith in judicial accountability, must be extirpated. Support for grassroots economic development and providing people with the means to support themselves must rank higher on the agenda of foreign aid budgets than it currently does. Airpower, special forces and mercenaries cannot solely reverse the tide of extremism beginning to torrent across the continent.
Somalia
  • On September 22, 2020, a hand grenade was thrown at a Somali police checkpoint in the capital Mogadishu. One policeman was killed and another was wounded (Telegram, September 22, 2020).
  • On September 19, 2020, a hand grenade was thrown at a Somali police checkpoint in the capital Mogadishu. Three policemen were wounded (Telegram, September 20, 2020).
  • On September 17, 2020, a hand grenade was thrown at a Somali police checkpoint in the capital Mogadishu. Three policemen were killed.

Asia

Afghanistan
  • On September 21, 2020, a fighter of the tribal militia forces supporting the Afghan army southwest of Jalalabad was targeted by gunfire. He was killed (Telegram, September 21, 2020).
  • On September 18, 2020, an IED was activated against a vehicle of the Afghan police in the city of Jalalabad. The passengers were killed or wounded (Telegram, September 18, 2020).

[1] According to claims of responsibility posted on Telegram
[2] The Al-Quds Brigade is a force established by the Syrian regime during the civil war (2013), comprising mainly Palestinian with relatively high competence. At first, this force was used for defensive missions in the Palestinian refugee camps in northern Syria. Subsequently, it carried out offensive missions against the rebel organizations and ISIS operatives in northern and eastern Syria.

[3] According to claims of responsibility posted on Telegram

[4] This is a reference to the showcase attack against the army camp near Rabi’a on July 21, 2020.

[5] According to ISIS’s claims of responsibility posted on Telegram

[6] Sam Peters, Islamic State Africa – an Inevitability?, The Organization for World Peace, 2 May 2020:https://theowp.org/islamic-state-africa-an-inevitability/The Organization for World Peace (OWP) works to resolve violent conflicts around the world by peaceful means, mainly by providing assistance to displaced persons. The organization publishes daily and monthly reports.

Source: terrorism-info.org.il

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