Weekly thought – All’s fair in love and war…including terrorism?
As I write these lines we have passed the six-month mark of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This naked act of military aggression, for that is exactly what it is, has killed thousands and wrecked many parts of Ukraine to the tune of billions of dollars. And it shows no signs of ebbing.
I cannot pretend to be neutral in this regard. Not only was the Russian decision to attack Ukraine unjustified – Ukraine posed no threat to Russia, was not itself planning to invade its neighbour, and had done nothing in recent years to warrant these Russian actions – but I am half Ukrainian (on my mother’s side) so I am not going to make any pretense of ‘seeing both sides’.
Ukrainian forces, supported to an admirable extent by Western nations, have performed remarkably against a much larger foe. They have stopped the advances of Russian troops which believed taking Ukraine in toto was just a matter of days. Yet, despite plucky Ukrainian bravey, the war shows no signs of ending any time soon and we will have to wait and see what ensues.
Ukraine has played the international card well, has impressed many on a military scale and is now taking the offensive into Russia (and Russian-held areas of Ukraine) now. It may, and I stress may, also have had a role in the killing of Daria Dugina, the daughter of far-right ideologue Alexander Dugin, or at least that is what Russia’s FSB security services are claiming. They say Natalya Vovk, a 43-year-old Ukrainian, was responsible for the killing then supposedly fled to Estonia.
As is usual in these instances, the truth is hard to make out. Russian government and media sources are not known to be accurate or honest on many occasions, both in Russia and around the world (we all have read about the so-called troll farms). Figuring out who killed Dugina and why will take time and we may never really know whodunit. A variety of Russian media outlets have floated the conspiracy theory that the Russian secret police staged the murder in order to mobilize the Russian population in support of the war.
If it were a Ukrainian assassin, does that make it an act of terrorism? I am unfamiliar with either Russian or Ukrainian law when it comes to terrorism but this was certainly a serious act of violence and it sure looks political in nature (even if Dugina’s father was the real target). That would make it terrorism, at least in Canada.
Or is anything acceptable in war? We do have international conventions on what is and what is not ok in warfare (don’t target civilians, don’t use chemical and biological weapons, don’t use people as ‘human shields’, etc.) and some would argue the assassination of Ms. Dugina in Moscow falls into some category of prohibited.
I am now beyond my specialisation as I am anything but a military or legal analyst. What is done is done and we will, alas, most likely see similar acts as long as this Russian-led invasion continues. We will also see the ‘t’ word (‘terrorism’) used by both sides: wait for more accusations of terrorism to come.
This week by the numbers
- Countries which experienced actual attacks: 6 (Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria, Palestine/Israel and Somalia)
- Victims (dead/wounded): 16 dead 18 wounded (including terrorists)
- Ideology of terrorists: majority Islamist extremist (jihadis)
- Single greatest attack: Somalia’s Al Shabaab (AS) killed six people it accused of spying for the US and UK governments on August 22.
- A bomb exploded in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif on August 24, injuring at least three civilians. While no claim of responsibility was made, Islamic State (ISIS) in Khorasan (ISK) is suspected.
- A roadside mine explosion in the northeastern Afghan province of Kunar on August 28 killed a Taliban member and wounded six more – there was no immediate claim of responsibility.
- Abdussalam Adina-Zada, a former University of Western Australia researcher, was jailed on August 26 for three-and-a-half years for advocating terrorism via YouTube videos where he praised the virtues of violence and martyrdom. The self-styled ‘future political leader of Tajikistan’, he had been in prison since his arrest in December 2020. In his YouTube videos, which have been watched more than 1.6 million times, he called for the Tajiki government to be overthrown. He spoke about how he was inspired by groups such as the Taliban in Afghanistan and ISIS in Syria.
- The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) terrorist group has threatened the head of the Arakan Rohingya Society for Peace and Human Rights (ARSPH) which is advocating for the repatriation of Rohingya refugees to their home villages and townships in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, which lies across the border from Cox’s Bazar district in Bangladesh.
- The Egyptian army claimed on August 23 that it was making substantial progress against the local ISIS affiliate, ISIS Wilayat Sinai, together with the assistance of local tribal fighters. Egypt announced that it had reduced Wilayat Sinai capabilities to a minimum in over the past two years.
- Three suspected Islamist terrorists were killed in disputed Kashmir on August 25 near the unofficial border between India and Pakistan, Indian police said, in the fourth such incident along the frontier in five days. The incident took place near an army post after crossing the highly militarised Line of Control (LoC) in northern Uri sector
- Iraq’s counter-terrorism service announced on August 22 the killing of six prominent ISIS leaders in their latest operation against the group’s remnants in the country. The most prominent leader killed was Abu Maryam al-Qahtani, the group’s so-called general administrator of Salahaddin province.
- ISIS killed three Kurdish policemen and wounded three other people in attacks in Kirkuk on August 22.
- The Internal Security Forces of North and East Syria, also known as Asayish, announced on August 25 that they had launched a new operation against ISIS cells in the infamous Al Hol camp. The Asayish said ISIS “carried out 43 terrorist acts, killing and executing 44 residents including 14 women and 2 children using guns, silenced pistols, and sharp objects, after torturing the victims and throwing their bodies in the sewage.” It was later learned that 27 ISIS terrorists had been arrested.
- On August 27 Iraqi forces launched a new sweeping operation against the remnants of ISIS in the remote areas between Kirkuk and Nineveh, the sixth phase of the so-called Solid Will military campaign. At least 12 explosive devices were confiscated along with stockpiles of weapons.
- Suspected ISIS terrorists killed a Kurdish shepherd in Kirkuk on August 28.
- A new offensive by Mozambique’s Islamist extremist rebels in the embattled northern province of Cabo Delgado has increased the number of displaced by 80,000 and undermines the government’s claims of containing the insurgency. The rebels have expanded their area in a campaign that has lasted for more than two months. This action, which started in June, follows a period of relative calm when the commander-general of Mozambique’s national police had declared that “the war against terrorism is almost at an end.” That claim proved to be hollow as the fighters have struck further south than ever before, burning villages and beheading civilians in the Ancuabe, Chiure and Mecufi districts which had previously been untouched by the conflict since it began in October 2017.
- Boko Haram (BH) terrorists attacked a community in Chibok (Borno State) on August 22, displacing hundreds of residents.
- The Governor of Borno State announced on August 25 that markets will be re-opened and schools re-built along the shared border between Cameroon and Nigeria after the area was declared free of Boko Haram terrorists.
- Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), together with the Mossad and Israeli Border Police, arrested 18 people in the West Bank on suspicion of terrorist activity on August 23.
- Israeli guards foiled a stabbing attack at a West Bank crossing on August 27. A Palestinian suspect was arrested and found to be carrying a knife – intelligence pointed to planned attack.
- IDF forces arrested a wanted Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) man on August 28 and engaged in clashes with gunmen in the northern West Bank.
- AS terrorists executed six people, whom they accused of spying for the US and Somalia, in a public area in Kunya Barrow district in the Lower Shabelle region on August 22.
- In the wake of the AS attack on the Hayat Hotel in Mogadishu last weekend the Somali President announced an ‘all-out war’ against the terrorist group. Given that the government has been at war with AS since 2006 it is unclear what this means.
- Five Somali civilians were injured in landmine blast near Kismayo, 500 km south of Mogadishu, on August 27: no group claimed the attack but it was most likely the work of AS.
- AS issued a new threat against neighboring Kenya on August 27, saying it will continue its attacks in that country as long as Kenyan troops are in Somalia: “Know that we will continue to defend our lands and our people from the aggressive Kenyan invasion. We will continue to concentrate our attacks on Kenyan towns and cities as long as Kenyan forces continue to occupy our Muslim lands.”
- During a visit to Tunisia, the Somali Prime Minister and the head of the African Union’s (AU) commission discussed how to strengthen cooperation between Somalia and the AU in the areas of security and politics and fighting Al-Shabaab.
- A Swiss woman who had pledged allegiance to ISIS and attacked two in a department store in the southern Ticino region in November 2020 is scheduled to go on trial. During the incident the terrorist attacked two other women, attempting to choke one with her hands, and injuring a second by cutting her neck with a knife.
- Togo’s armed forces repelled an Islamist terrorist attack that injured several soldiers on the border with Burkina Faso, the fifth in the country since last year.
- Turkish defence forces claimed on August 27 that they had ‘neutralised’ six PKK/YPG terrorists during Operation Euphrates Shield.
- On August 25 Turkish counterterrorism police announced that they had arrested eight ISIS members in Samsun Province.
- Yemen’s main southern separatist group, the Southern Transitional Council (STC), said on August 23 that it had launched a military operation in Abyan province “to cleanse it of terrorist organisations“.
- Following an investigation by the Police Services of Northern Ireland (PSNI), four men were arrested in Belfast on August 26 under the Terrorism Act, in connection with the activities of the New Irish Republican Army (IRA). The men, aged 27, 30, 51 and 62-years-of-age, have been taken to the Serious Crime Suite in Musgrave Police Station.
- A New Mexico man was arrested on August 26 and charged with trying to provide material support to ISIS. Federal prosecutors believe Herman Leyvoune Wilson, 45, of Albuquerque, was trying to establish an “Islamic State Center” in New Mexico that would teach ISIS ideology, provide martial arts training and serve as a haven for people preparing to fight for the group in the US and abroad. Two men arrested in September 2020 for providing material support to ISIS testified that Wilson had radicalised them to the group’s ideology.: Kristopher Matthews and Jaylin Molina were arrested for providing material support to ISIS and later pleaded guilty, sentenced to 20 years and 18 years in prison respectively.