The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center's Spotlight on Global Jihad
Main events of the past week
- This week, the relatively low level of ISIS activity around the world continued.
- According to a report released by the UN on the terrorist threat, ISIS and al-Qaeda are still the biggest risk factor worldwide. One of the main concerns raised by the report is the processes of radicalization and ISIS’s recruitment of operatives via the Internet, exploiting weak local populations.
- Hypotheses about the successor of ISIS’s leader: It is surmised that ISIS’s new leader will be chosen from among its four Iraqi senior officials, members of the founding generation. ISIS has not yet disclosed any details on the matter.
- ISIS’s activity in Syria continued on a relatively low scale. Most of the attacks were directed against the Kurdish SDF forces in the Deir ez-Zor-Al-Mayadeen region. Since October 2021, HTS reportedly detained about 300 jihadi operatives in the rebel enclave in Idlib.
- In Iraq as well, ISIS’s activity was on a relatively small scale, mainly against Iraqi military forces. Several soldiers were killed and wounded in a relatively complex operation in the Rutba region in western Iraq. The Iraqi security forces continued their counterterrorism activity. Seven ISIS operatives were killed in an Iraqi airstrike in the al-Khadr region, southeast of Mosul.
- The Sinai Peninsula: After a considerable delay, ISIS announced that on January 24, 2022, it had executed a “spy” who had been abducted about two months earlier near Bir al-Abd. The Egyptian security forces and the local forces supporting them continued their counterterrorism activity. Several casualties were reported among the fighters of the Sinai Tribal Union and the Egyptian army.
- Afghanistan: ISIS continues its attacks against the Taliban forces, albeit on a relatively small scale. A hand grenade was thrown at the entrance to a mosque in a town near the Afghanistan-Turkmenistan border. ISIS may have been behind the attack.
- Africa: ISIS continued its attacks against the Nigerian army in the northeast of the country. In northern Cameroon, ISIS operatives attacked an army camp. At least 10 soldiers were killed in the exchange of fire.
- Attack thwarted in Europe: Spanish police recently arrested five people on suspicion of carrying out activity for ISIS in various places in Spain.
- The battle for hearts and minds: The lead article in this week’s issue of ISIS’s Al-Naba’ weekly was devoted to the global media, and especially the Arab media which, according to the article, distorts the truth, distances Muslims from their faith and serves the “Jewish and Christian conspiracies.” Over the past two weeks, the ISIS-affiliated Al-Saqri Institute for Military Studies has posted instructions for making IEDs on Telegram, along with posts encouraging ISIS operatives to take action against its enemies (Militant Wire, February 12, 2022).
UN report on global terrorist threats
- Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Office Vladimir Voronkov published the Threats to International Peace and Security Caused by Terrorist Acts report for the year 2021. The report stated the following, inter alia (UN website, February 9, 2022; UN Security Council website, February 8, 2022):
- ISIS and al-Qaeda still pose a major threat to world security and represent the biggest terrorism risk factor.
- Terrorism in Syria and Iraq: The number of ISIS operatives in Syria and Iraq is estimated at between 6,000 and 10,000. In the second half of 2021, ISIS increased its activity, and its operatives are concentrating on carrying out guerrilla operations, mainly in outlying areas.
- Afghanistan: In 2021, ISIS’s Khorasan Province doubled in size from 2,200 to 4,000 operatives, and is capable of carrying out relatively complex attacks. The province is attempting to position itself as the dominant opponent to the Taliban administration, under which terrorist groups enjoy unprecedented freedom of action.
- Europe: Various European authorities have reported several cases indicating a pattern of homegrown terrorism, with frustrated and vulnerable young locals who have expressed enthusiasm for radical violence, easily absorbing the propaganda messages of ISIS and al-Qaeda.
- East Asia: Some countries have reported a decrease in terrorist activity, mainly due to successful counterterrorism activity by their security services.
- Recruitment: One of the main concerns raised by the report is radicalization and ISIS’s recruitment processes via the Internet in conflict-free regions. In these regions, ISIS continues to take advantage of the frustration, political tension and socioeconomic difficulties of the local population.
- Terrorist financing: ISIS’s leadership has an amount ranging from $25 million to $50 million. It is estimated that ISIS’s leadership is able to allocate large sums of money to its operatives outside Syria and Iraq.
Assessments about the identity of ISIS’s new leader
- Two Iraqi officials and three experts have estimated that ISIS’s new leader would be chosen from among its four Iraqi officials, members of ISIS’s founding generation. The names that came up are Abu Khadija, commander of ISIS’s Iraq Province; the commander of the Al-Anbar region, codenamed Abu Moslem; a commander codenamed Abu Saleh, about whom little is known apart from the fact that he was close to its two previous leaders, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Abu Ibrahim al-Qurashi; and Abu Yasser al-Issawi. According to the United States, the latter was killed in January 2021, but his death is apparently uncertain (Reuters, February 9, 2022).
The Syrian arena
ISIS’s Al-Naba’ weekly included an infographic presenting ISIS’s achievements in Syria between January 21 and February 9, 2022. According to the infographic, during this period ISIS carried out 42 terrorist attacks in Syria, killing and wounding 115 people. The activity focused on the regions of Deir ez-Zor (23 attacks), Al-Hasakah (13), and Al-Raqqah (6). Most of the terrorist attacks took the form of shooting (37). There were also two ambushes, two targeted killings, and one instance of detonating an IED (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, February 10, 2022).
The Idlib region
- Exchanges of artillery fire continued between Syrian soldiers and forces supporting the Syrian army, and the rebel organizations in the Idlib enclave. The Syrian army fired artillery at the south of the rebel enclave in Idlib. Six civilians, members of the same family, were reportedly killed (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, February 13, 2022). Two Syrian soldiers were killed by gunfire in the northeastern rebel enclave. The Syrian army responded with artillery fire. Russian fighter planes carried out airstrikes south of Idlib and in the southern part of the rebel enclave (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, February 13, 15, 2022).
- It was reported that since October 2021, operatives of HTS, the dominant rebel organization in the rebel enclave, had detained about 300 jihadi operatives, mostly foreign fighters. The detainees reportedly included about 40 commanders and ideological leaders (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, February 13, 2022).
- An SDF roadblock was targeted by gunfire in the Ghuwayran neighborhood in Al-Hasakah (in the area of the prison which was attacked by ISIS about two weeks ago). Two Kurdish fighters were killed (Telegram, February 9, 2022).
- An SDF fighter was targeted by gunfire near his home in Karamah, east of Al-Raqqah. He was wounded (Telegram, February 10, 2022).
Deir ez-Zor-Al-Mayadeen region
- On February 13, 2022, an SDF vehicle was targeted by gunfire in the Basira region, about 15 km north of Al-Mayadeen. The vehicle was put out of commission and the three passengers on board were killed (Telegram, February 13, 2022).
- On February 10, 2022, an SDF vehicle was targeted by gunfire in Al-Susah, about 7 km northeast of Albukamal. The vehicle was damaged and the passengers on board were wounded (Telegram, February 10, 2022).
- On February 9, 2022, an SDF roadblock was attacked in Jadida Bakara, about 20 km southeast of Deir ez-Zor. Six SDF fighters were killed or wounded in the exchange of fire (Telegram, February 10, 2022).
- On February 9, 2022, an SDF base was targeted by gunfire in Jazrat Albu Shams, northwest of Deir ez-Zor. Six Kurdish fighters were killed or wounded in the exchange of fire (Telegram, February 10, 2022).
- On February 9, 2022, ISIS operatives who infiltrated an SDF base in Shahil, about 10 km north of Al-Mayadeen, abducted and killed five fighters. They set the base on fire and seized five rifles. According to ISIS, the attack was carried out to avenge the killing of three women and four children in the Al-Hawl Camp, where family members of ISIS operatives are held (Telegram, February 9, 2022).
On February 8, 2022, an SDF post was attacked in Dhiban, about 3 km east of Al-Mayadeen. Two fighters were wounded and the post sustained damage (Telegram, February 8, 2022).
The Iraqi arena
Attacks by province
- On February 15, 2022, an IED was activated against an Iraqi army vehicle in the Hamrin region, in the northwest of the province. The vehicle was put out of commission and the passengers on board were wounded.
- On February 14, 2022, an IED was activated against an Iraqi army vehicle west of Qara Tapa, about 75 km north of Baqubah. The vehicle was destroyed and the passengers on board, including an officer, were wounded.
- On February 9, 2022, an IED was activated against an Iraqi army vehicle in the Kanaan region, about 15 km southeast of Baqubah. The vehicle was put out of commission and the passengers on board were killed or wounded. An Iraqi army post in area was targeted by gunfire on the same day. One soldier was killed and another was wounded. ISIS operatives also destroyed a water pump used by the Tribal Mobilization in the area.
- On February 9, 2022, an Iraqi army convoy was targeted by gunfire during an operation in the Al-Azim region, about 60 km north of Baqubah. Six vehicles were put out of commission.
- On February 8, 2022, an Iraqi army post was attacked east of Al-Rutba, in western Iraq. Several soldiers were wounded. An IED was activated against a vehicle that arrived on the scene. It was destroyed, and the passengers on board were killed.
- On February 14, 2022, an Iraqi police vehicle was ambushed and fired at in the Daquq region, in south Kirkuk. It was put out of commission. A lieutenant was wounded.
- The Iraqi government counterterrorism unit and Kurdish Special Forces detained four ISIS operatives in the province (Al-Sumaria, February 15, 2022).
- On February 8, 2022, the Iraqi Air Force killed seven ISIS operatives in the region of al-Khadr, southeast of Mosul. The dead included Abu Sultan al-Nimrawi, ISIS’s operative in charge of security in the al-Jazira and the Desert sector (east and southeast of Mosul). He was responsible for receiving ISIS operatives arriving from Syria and was in charge of ISIS’s guesthouses (the Iraqi Interior Ministry, February 8, 2022).
- ISIS announced that on January 24, 2022, it had executed an Egyptian army “spy” abducted about two months earlier near Bir al-Abd. According to ISIS, the “spy” was from Asyut. ISIS’s Amaq News Agency released a video documenting the execution (Telegram, February 12, 2022; Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, February 10, 2022).
On February 15, 2022, armed operatives abducted two Al-Arish residents in the Al-Gafgafa region in the central Sinai Peninsula (Shahed Sinaa – al-Rasmia Facebook page, February 15, 2022). Presumably, they were abducted by operatives of ISIS’s Sinai Province.
- At least eight Sinai Tribal Union fighters were reportedly killed in the fighting against armed terrorist operatives (most likely ISIS operatives) in the Sinai Peninsula (Shahed Sinaa – al-Rasmia Facebook page, February 14, 2022; Sinai Tribal Union Twitter account, February 13, 2022). An Egyptian special unit fighter was killed fighting in North Sinai (@mahmouedgamal44 Twitter account, February 10, 2022).
- The Egyptian security forces in North Sinai seized a truck loaded with substances for manufacturing IEDs probably intended for the use of ISIS’s operatives in the Sinai Peninsula. The substances were hidden underneath piles of cardboard boxes (@Gvroe6mFKBNU7jQ Twitter account, February 9, 2022).
Summary of ISIS’s activity in the various provinces
Weekly summary of ISIS’s activity
- An infographic published by ISIS summing up its activity around the world in the period between February 3 and February 9, 2022, indicates that in this period, ISIS carried out 35 attacks in its various provinces in Asia and Africa (similarly to last week). The largest number of attacks was carried out by ISIS’s Iraq and West Africa provinces (8 attacks in each). Attacks carried out in the other provinces: Syria (7); Khorasan (i.e., Afghanistan) (7); Central Africa (4); and Sinai (1). A total of 134 people were killed or wounded in the attacks, compared to 73 in the previous week. The largest number of casualties was in the West Africa Province (76). The other casualties were in the following provinces: Iraq (27); Syria (17); Khorasan (9); Central Africa (4); and Sinai (1) (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, February 10, 2022).
ISIS attacks in recent months (according to ISIS data)
ISIS activity in Africa
- On February 15, 2022, mortar shells were fired at a Nigerian army camp in Gamburo, in Borno State, northeastern Nigeria. According to ISIS, definite hits were identified.
- On February 14, 2022, mortar shells were fired at a Nigerian army base in Yadin Boni, in Yobe State, northeastern Nigeria. According to ISIS, definite hits were identified.
- On February 14, 2022, mortar shells were fired at a Nigerian army base and post in Wulgo, on the Nigeria-Cameroon border, in northeastern Nigeria. According to ISIS, seven soldiers were killed or wounded.
On February 13, 2022, a Nigerian army checkpoint was targeted by gunfire between Guza and Polaka, in northeastern Nigeria. Several soldiers manning the checkpoint were wounded but managed to flee. ISIS operatives seized a motorcycle and a rifle.
- On February 13, 2022, an IED was activated against Nigerian army vehicles on the Maiduguri-Damboa highway in northeastern Nigeria. One vehicle was put out of commission. No casualties were reported.
- On February 12, 2022, an IED was activated against a Nigerian army convoy on the Maiduguri-Damboa highway. One vehicle was destroyed and the passengers on board were killed or wounded.
- On February 11, 2022, a Nigerian army post was targeted by gunfire in Kikino, in northeastern Nigeria. Five soldiers manning the post were killed.
- On February 11, 2022, a Nigerian army convoy was targeted by gunfire in Kobawa, in northeastern Nigeria. Several vehicles were damaged.
- On February 10, 2022, an IED was activated against a Nigerian army foot patrol in the area between Katafila and Mararaba, in Borno State, northeastern Nigeria. Several soldiers were killed or wounded. A day earlier, an IED had been activated against a foot patrol in the area between Kamajiro and Mararaba. Several soldiers were killed or wounded.
- A Cameroonian army camp was targeted by gunfire near Kamanga, in northern Cameroon. At least three soldiers were killed and several others were wounded in the exchange of fire (Telegram, February 13, 2022).
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Documentation of prisoners freed by ISIS from Novili Prison
- On February 2, 2022, ISIS operatives attacked a Congolese army camp in Novili, near the border with Uganda. The operatives set fire to the camp. They then took over the town and freed 20 ISIS operatives incarcerated in the local prison (Telegram, February 4, 2022). A few days later, photos were published documenting the prisoners who had been freed.
- On February 11, 2022, ISIS’s leader in Tunisia was reportedly arrested (www.libyasecuritymonitor.com, February 11, 2022). No further details were reported and the information has not been verified.
- This week, the decrease in ISIS’s attacks against the Taliban in Afghanistan continued. The details of the attacks are as follows:
- On February 14, 2022, a camp of the Taliban forces was targeted by gunfire in Soki District, in the Kunar Province. Two Taliban members were wounded and the camp sustained damage.
- On February 11, 2022, a hand grenade was thrown at the entrance to the Qala-e-naw Mosque in the Badghis Province, near the Afghanistan-Turkmenistan border (Khaama Press, February 11, 2022). One person was killed and 14 others were wounded. It can be estimated that ISIS’s Khorasan Province was behind the incident since it previously carried out similar attacks on mosques in Afghanistan.
- On February 8, 2022, a Taliban member was abducted and executed in the Kama region of the Nangarhar Province (Telegram, February 9, 2022).
- The al-Qaeda-affiliated Ansar Ghazwat ul-Hind jihadist organization, which operates in Kashmir, released a statement claiming that on February 5, 2022, two of its operatives were killed in the fighting against the Indian army in the Srinagar region of Kashmir. It called on the residents of Kashmir to join the fight against the Indian army (@ToreRHamming Twitter account, February 7, 2022).
- On February 11, 2022, five UN workers were abducted in the Abyan region in southern Yemen. No official statement has been released on the matter but al-Qaeda-affiliated sources have stated that al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which operates in Yemen, was responsible for the abduction (Reuters, February 13, 2022; @Minalami Twitter account, February 14, 2022).
- On January 22, 2022, Turkish security forces arrested Ali al-Tawil, codenamed Abu K., an ISIS operative from Tunisia. According to the report, he commanded groups fighting in Syria and Iraq on behalf of ISIS from his hiding place in Istanbul, where he was arrested (Anatolia News Agency, February 11, 2022).
- As part of an operation against terrorist operatives, including those who operate online, Spanish police, with the assistance of Interpol’s counterterrorism unit, arrested five suspects in several places in Spain. The chief suspect was allegedly one of the leaders of a terrorist group from Libya affiliated with ISIS who funded the group through a network of straw companies. Two of the other detainees are suspected of attempting to recruit ISIS operatives via the Internet (thenewsglory.com, February 14, 2022; Al-Arabiya, February 14, 2022).
The battle for hearts and minds
- The lead article in this week’s issue of ISIS’s Al-Naba’ weekly is entitled “They Played Tricks on People!”f It is devoted to the global media, and especially the Arab media which, according to ISIS, distorts the truth, distances Muslims from their faith and serves the “Jewish and Christian conspiracies.” According to the article, since the days of Pharaoh, his sorcerers attempted to divert people from their faith, using deception in order to try to prove to Moses that their God was the most sublime one. This is also the case today, when the media figures of the “tyrannical” Arab regimes play tricks on people and have managed to take control of their thoughts and their hearts. According to the article, the Arab media ignores the suffering of the children held in the Al-Hawl camp in the Al-Hasakah Province in Syria (where ISIS operatives are detained) and ignores the “achievements of the Islamic nation in the Ghuwayran Prison” (the freeing of inmates from the prison around two weeks ago) in a manner that indicates the degree to which the Christians and the Jews have penetrated the minds of the Arabs, influencing their ideas, their faith, and their morality. At the end of the article, the author calls on ISIS’s supporters and operatives to double their media efforts, because victory in the media-propaganda arena is extremely important for achieving victory in the war arena (Al-Naba’ weekly, Telegram, February 10, 2022).
ISIS publishes instructions for making IEDs
- For the past two weeks, the ISIS-affiliated Al-Saqri Institute for Military Studies (Mu’assassat al-Saqri lil-‘Ulum al-Harbiya) has been posting instructions on Telegram for making IEDs, urging ISIS operatives to take action against ISIS’s enemies (Militant Wire, February 12, 2022).
 Mostly according to ISIS’s claims of responsibility posted on Telegram ↑
 Mainly according to ISIS's claims of responsibility posted on Telegram ↑
 From the Quran: Surat al-A’raf, verse 116. The verse refers to Pharaoh's sorcerers who attempt to demonstrate the ability to play tricks on Moses (who is considered a prophet according to Islam), and ultimately Moses presents them with great miracles under God’s guidance.