Weekly theme – Afghanistan and Al Qaeda: what’s up?
For those still clinging to the notion that the jihadis running Afghanistan – again! – have miraculously morphed into a kinder, gentler Taliban 2.0, the death of Al Qaeda (AQ) leader Ayman Al Zawahiri in an upscale house in Kabul raises some very awkward questions, starting with: why did the Taliban protect him? Shades of their protection of the Egyptian doctor’s mentor and predecessor Usama bin Laden who called Afghanistan home for a very long time and used his base there to plan 9/11.
The Taliban immediately called the US airstrike that killed Al Zawahiri a ‘violation’ of the Doha Accords, a ‘peace’ agreement signed with former US president Trump which paved the way for the August 2021 US withdrawal from Afghanistan under President Biden. One of the terms of the deal was a promise by the Taliban that Afghan territory would not be used as a launch pad by AQ or Islamic State (ISIS) for attacks against the US.
Um, how does harbouring the AQ leader jive with the Taliban promises? Unless, of course, the Taliban never intended to honour them in the first place. In order words, no Taliban 2.0. Duh!
The fact remains that the Taliban were, are, and most likely will always be in bed with AQ. No one should be surprised that Al Zawahiri was holed up right in the smack of the capital, most probably with their full knowledge and support. One analyst noted that the house where he was staying belongs to the Acting Minister of Interior. Wow! The Taliban are unlikely to do anything to cramp AQ’s style any time soon. Get used to that.
The Taliban had the temerity to claim they had no idea Al Zawahiri was slumming at a place owned by one of their ministers and maintained they are ‘resolved’ to fight terrorism. This blatant lie should remind us that they are not to be trusted on pretty much anything, which makes dealing with them that more difficult.
The more interesting question is what price, if any, does the Taliban pay for their ongoing relationship with AQ? A military invasion is surely not in the cards. The Taliban are desperate for international recognition, and aid, and moves like this will not make anyone want to deal with them. As a consequence, it is the Afghan people, and not the bearded Salafi terrorists, who will continue to suffer.
For that is what happens when jihadis take over (just ask the Iraqis/Syrians/Kurds/Yazidis who endured ISIS rule).
The bottom line for me is that no one should have been surprised by any of this. That some were speaks volumes about certain ‘national security experts’.
In other Afghan news:
- The Taliban claimed on August 4 to have besieged a house that served as an ISIS Khorasan Province (ISKP) “nest” that was going to be used for attacking Shia Afghans during Muharram in Kabul.
- At least 8 people were killed and 18 others were injured in a blast claimed by ISKP on August 5 in the Sar-e-Kariz area of Kabul during a Muharram gathering of mourning Shia Afghans. The explosion occurred in a wheelbarrow among civilians. More than 120 civilians were injured.
- The Taliban killed one of the leading Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) terrorists, Omar Khalid Khorasani, during an attack in Afghanistan together with his three other associates.
Al Zawahiri killing aftermath
- The Kenyan government heightened security at various locales in fear that Al Shabaab (AS) might try to retaliate following the killing. Recall that AQ was behind the 1998 twin bombings in Nairobi and Tanzania in which hundreds were killed and thousands injured.
- The US urged its citizens to be vigilant against possible anti-American violence abroad following the killing of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. The State Department issued a statement saying “current information suggests that terrorist organisations continue to plan terrorist attacks against US interests in multiple regions across the globe. These attacks may employ a wide variety of tactics including suicide operations, assassinations, kidnappings, hijackings and bombings.”
- FBI Director Christopher Wray told the Senate Judiciary Committee on August 4 that he is worried about potential for large-scale attack planned or inspired by AQ despite death of Al Zawahiri: both AQ and ISIS and affiliates “intend to carry out or inspire large-scale attacks in the US”. He added that ” I’m worried about the possibility that we’ll see al-Qaida reconstruct, ISIS-K taking potential advantage of the deteriorating security environment, and I’m worried about terrorists, including here in the United States, being inspired by what they see over there.”
- Belgian prosecutors announced on August 2 that they will not appeal the verdicts in the cases of 14 Belgium-based suspects accused of providing support for the November 2015 jihadist attacks in Paris despite four acquittals and short sentences for those convicted. I am quite sure the families of the victims of these attacks are not going to be happy with Belgium’s move.
- Islamist militants killed four soldiers and nine civilian army volunteers when they ambushed a counter-terrorist operation in northern Burkina Faso on August 5. Burkinabe troops fired back in retaliation and claimed to have killed at least 34 assailants.
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
- The DRC army claimed it killed 11 members of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) militia, which the Islamic State group claims as its local affiliate, in the east of the country on August 2.
- Suspected ADF Islamist terrorists killed around 20 people in attacks on two villages in eastern Congo over the weekend of August 6-7.
- Ethiopia claimed on August 7 that its army had killed 333 suspected Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) terrorists in late July and destroyed 69 warehouses used by the group.
- Ghana’s President called on the people in the country’s northeast region to ensure effective collaboration with security agencies to combat activities of terrorists in the area.
- Iranian intelligence officials announced on August 4 that 10 ISIS terrorists who were planning attacks on religious gatherings in western and southern Iran had been arrested. The 10 were captured in possession of explosive equipment, communication devices and weapons and injured two Iranian intelligence agents in an exchange of fire before being arrested. Iran claimed the terrorists had entered from Iraq and Turkey.
- Five Iraqi soldiers were killed by an IED planted by Islamic State (ISIS) as they were en route to reinforce an army outpost under ISIS attack in Diyala province on August 2.
- On August 5 PKK terrorists killed a Turkish soldier during a military counterterrorism operation in northern Iraq.
- AS raided a police base in Kenya’s Mandera County on August 1, injuring 3 officers.
- AS ambushed a Kenyan police vehicle on patrol in Mandera South and subsequently wounded five officers on August 4.
- Mozambique’s Defence and Security Council welcomed former fighters of the liberation struggle against Portugal for taking up arms against jihadis in Cabo Delgado.
- The United Nations (UN) says growing violence by ISIS-affiliated terrorists in the northern parts of Mozambique has internally displaced more than 784,000 people.
- France’s Total Energies announce on August 4 that Mozambique would launch natural gas exports in October from an area in the northeast seized by jihadists in 2021. President Nyusi encouraged companies to return to Cabo Delgado now that the security situation has ‘stabilised’.
- Mozambican health authorities are reopening most of the 34 health units wrecked by Islamist terrorists in the northern province of Cabo Delgado. The terrorist raids had led to over 500 health staff fleeing to safer areas.
- On August 3 Nigerian President Buhari stated that he had given his security forces “full freedom to deal with, and bring to end this (terrorist) madness.”
- Nigeria’s police has deployed additional manpower around Abuja to bolster security of “critical national assets and vulnerable facilities,” days after local reports of an attack at a checkpoint near the capital. The country faces growing insecurity from an Islamist insurgency in the northeast, kidnappings for ransom in the northwest and armed criminal gangs roaming the country. Among these facilities are prisons in Katsina, Kebbi, and Zamfara States.
- Police in Ekiti State are the latest security agency to announce they have begun reinforcement on security in border towns in the state over reports of an impending attack by terrorists. The fear came after rumours of infiltration of the terrorists into forests in the region emerged on social media last week. While much of this threat comes from ‘bandits’, not terrorists, Nigeria’s State Security Services (SSS) arrested a suspected Boko Haram leader masquerading as a security man in nearby Ogun State.
- The Governor of Lagos told residents to ignore doomsday prophets predicting terrorist attacks in the state on August 5.
- Prison officials in Abuja have been accused of subjecting inmates to inhumane treatment, torture with batons, other weapons after the July 5 Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP) attack on the Kuje Correctional Centre in which hundreds of prisoners were freed.
- The Baloch Raaji Aajoi Sangar (BRAS), an umbrella group of Baloch insurgent groups, claimed to have shot down a military helicopter during a flood relief operation on August 1, killing all six on board including a top army commander. Ethnic Baloch militants have for decades waged an insurgency against the Pakistani government in the southwestern province, complaining that its rich gas and mineral resource are unfairly exploited to the benefit of other parts of the country.
- A man carrying an IED was killed when the device exploded in SE Pakistan: police cannot rule out Sindhudesh Revolutionary Army involvement.
- On August 1 Israeli troops killed a Palestinian during a raid on a flashpoint West Bank town in which they arrested a local leader of the Islamic Jihad terrorist group. Israeli commandos disguised as Palestinians entered Jenin to make two arrests and came under fire, shooting back, hitting several gunmen, and left without suffering casualties.
- On August 5 Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) threatened to attack Tel Aviv after Israeli strikes on Gaza which killed five Palestinians, including a child and PIJ terrorist.
- Israel stated on August 7 that it had killed Khalid Mansour, a senior PIJ commander in a crowded Gaza refugee camp, the second such targeted attack since launching its high-stakes military offensive against the militant group just before the weekend. The Israeli army also claimed it had arrested 20 PIJ terrorists following raids in the West Bank, and hit a PIJ ‘attack tunnel’ in Gaza as well as another 140 terror targets.
Right wing terrorism
- Russia’s top court designated the Azov Regiment, accused of harbouring neo-Nazi and white supremacist ideology, a “terrorist” organisation. The group has officially been integrated into the Ukrainian army: the ruling allows for lengthy prison terms for the members.
- On August 4 the Senegalese government announced it had signed a peace agreement with Casamance rebels – Movement of Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC) – who have pledged to lay down their arms and work for the definitive return of peace in this region. The MFDC has been waging a low-intensity conflict since 1982, causing several thousand deaths. This conflict remained latent until the launch in January 2021 by the Senegalese army of a major offensive against the rebels.
- An explosion on August 2 in Mogadishu killed at least two people and injured another unknown number. The blast was reportedly targeting a security forces convoy in the area. Police forces arrested several people at the scene after the blast and took them to the Hodan district police station. While no group claimed responsibilty AS is believed to be behind the attack
- Somalia’s prime minister has named former AS co-founder and spokesperson Mukhtar Robow as a minister in the country’s new cabinet. Some analysts have speculated that Robow, who subsequently denounced AS, could help strengthen government forces in his native Bakool region, where the insurgency holds substantial amounts of territory. An ‘ex’ AS Salafi jihadi as Minister of Religion? Count me in as skeptical.
- The US has given Somalia 24 armoured personnel carriers (APS) to help it and the African Union Transition Mission to Somalia (ATMIS) fight AS. On August 6 it announced that it was sending a new military commander to Somalia as Al Shabaab attacks are on the rise.
- AS launched an attack on an ATMIS base in the south of Somalia on August 3.
- Ethiopian generals visited Somalia in the wake of a major Al Shabaab incursion into their territory and discussed counter terrorism operations with Somali officials. An Ethiopian Major General claimed that the military had killed more than 800 Al-Shabaab terrorists, including twenty-four leaders of the group, during the terrorists’ incursion into Ethiopia.
- A car bomb planted in Jowhar on August 7 injured five people, among which were two women seriously wounded. One of those wounded was later reported to have died.
- Mortar shells struck residential neighbourhoods in Mogadishu on August 7 just as parliament convened to approve the country’s recently appointed cabinet: no claim but most likely Al Shabaab.
- Turkey says it has deported 9,000 foreign terrorist fighters from 102 different nationalities since 2011, of which 1,168 are from the US and EU member countries.
- On August 2 and 3 Turkish anti-terror security teams detained 33 suspects linked to ISIS in separate operations held in Istanbul, Ankara and the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa.
- A Dutch woman was sentenced to three years in prison on August 1 for donating several hundred dollars to a group that supported AS. The sentenced imposed on Farhia Hassan, 38, was far less than the 8-year sentence sought by prosecutors. She was one of about 15 women who gathered in an online chatroom and regularly committed small amounts of money to support the group in Somalia and Kenya.
- A UK court issued an arrest warrant for the 2017 Manchester Arena bomber’s brother, 29-yr old Ismail Abedi who was convicted in his absence in July of failing to appear at the Manchester Arena Inquiry.