Welcome to a new Borealis weekly feature: global terrorism this week (GTTW). In this series we will look at all activity related to terrorism anywhere on Earth over a 7-day period. One special theme will be presented per week, as well as links to all acts of terrorism worldwide.
The data in these reports are all derived from open sources. We do not claim that these lists are exhaustive in nature, but we do have high levels of confidence that the attacks discussed did occur. We are also keen to distinguish ‘true’ terrorism from other forms of violence that sometimes are described as such but which we feel do not meet the criteria to be labeled as terrorism (e.g. hate crimes, serious acts of violence with no obvious ties to ideological rationales, run-of-the-mill criminals, etc.). Some will disagree with these choices: you are free and encouraged to share your thoughts on these issues.
The data used to compile these weekly summaries are derived from dozens of hours of scanning online sources. Where possible, all attacks are corroborated from more than one source: all entries have hyperlinks to one of the sources.
This weekly summary is a small attempt to highlight what happened around the world in any given seven-day period. In other words, it is a litany of facts, not theories.
We’d love to hear what you think of this series. Leave us a message on Twitter (@borealissaves), LinkedIn, email ([email protected]), FaceBook, or here on the Website. Thanks!
Week of July 25-31, 2022
Weekly highlight: Somalia
A number of attacks this week were carried out by Al Shabaab (AS), an Al Qaeda (AQ)-affiliated Islamist terrorist group which has been active in Somalia and the immediate vicinity since the mid-2000s. What was of particular interest this week was the attack on Ethiopia (which may have occurred as far as 150km inside Ethiopia). It is worth remembering that it was a decision by the Ethiopian government in 2006 to invade Somalia, at the behest (in part) of the US, to deal with the Islamic Courts Union, a Salafi group which morphed into AS, that in essence gave rise to one of the world’s most successful jihadi terrorist groups. What with Ethiopia’s many internal problems – a civil war against Oromo and Tigray groups, near famine, precarious relations with neighbouring Eritrea – one would wonder why they would choose now to lash out – again! – against AS. Does the group pose that much of a threat to Ethiopia?
Not really – yet – although Ethiopian military action against AS will certainly get the latter’s attention and could lead to more attacks, possibly within Ethiopia itself. As an example, both Kenya and Uganda, participants in African Union military efforts against AS, have invited retaliatory action by the terrorist group. At least three Kenyan police officers were injured after AS terrorists attacked a security camp in the border region of Mandera on July 25. In a piece in Militant Wire, Lucas Webber (NB he will be on a future Borealis podcast) notes that AS attacks on Turkish armed forces in Mogadishu are also on the rise. Lesson: foreign military incursions to fight terrorism invite retribution from the very terrorists you are trying to defeat.
Ethiopia claimed it had killed more than 200 AS terrorists during AS’ incursion (another story said it was 600!) – including three ‘key AS leaders‘ – and received praise from the US for its actions. However, an unnamed senior US military official said the AS attack was not a ‘fluke’, adding that the group has somewhere between 7,000 and 12,000 fighters and is spending approximately U.S.$24 million a year – a quarter of its budget – on weapons, explosives and increasingly, on drones.
Why would AS attack Ethiopia? In an interesting piece by Caleb Weiss and Ryan O’Farrell in Long War Journal, it is deemed unlikely that AS is seeking to join up with the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), as some officials in both Ethiopia and Somalia maintain, as the OLA is not jihadist in nature. Wisis and O’Farrell suggest AS wants to establish a base in Ethiopia’s Bale Mountains for future action.
In Somalia itself AS seems to attack at whim, occasional Somali National Army (SNA) successes notwithstanding. Of note this week was a suicide attack in Somalia’s Southwest State in which Hassan Ibrahim Lugbur, that state’s justice minister was killed outside a mosque shortly after he performed the Friday prayer. In another attack south of Mogadishu an AS suicide bomber killed a district commissioner in Marka and nine others: the death toll later rose to 19.
In other terrorism news from Somalia:
- Unidentified (AFRICOM?) warplanes carried out airstrikes in the Toora-Toorow area of the Lower Shabelle region, targeting AS members in their base.
- In the aftermath of this week’s attacks, an op-ed in Garowe Online an unnamed analyst warned that AS is still a major force, even if some thought they were ‘lying low’.
- The SNA and forces from the southwestern region claim to have killed three AS terrorists in a joint offensive in the region on July 30
- AS executed seven men in Somalia’s southwestern region of Bay, having accused them of spying for the Somali government and the US; three were also accused of providing intelligence that led to the killing of senior al-Shabab leaders, Yusuf Jiis and Abdulkadir Commandos, who were targeted in U.S. airstrikes in 2020.
Elsewhere in the world last week
- Facebook closed the Facebook and Instagram accounts of state-run Radio Television Afghanistan (RTA) and the Bakhtar News Agency, citing the fact that the Taliban, currently running Afghanistan, “is sanctioned as a terrorist organization under U.S. law, and they are banned from using our services under our Dangerous Organizations policies.”
- The Taliban are pressuring local journalists to publish favorable reports and threatening them if they are perceived to be too critical.
- Two people were killed in Kabul cricket stadium grenade attack on July 30; no group claimed responsibility for the blast.
- An Afghan Salafi religious scholar was killed by unknown gunmen in northeastern Afghanistan on July 29; NE Afghanistan is a well-known Islamic State in Khorasan (ISK) stronghold.
- .Clashes broke out on July 31 between Iranian border guards and Taliban forces: the Afghan side confirmed one of their border officers was killed and another wounded.
- A special peace tribunal investigating atrocities committed during Colombia’s decades-long conflict charged 19 soldiers with war crimes and crimes against humanity for murdering 303 people, mostly civilians, between 2005 and 2008. The victims were described as “false positives”, i.e. suspected members of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC).
- Indonesian Police’s special counterterrorism squad, Densus 88, arrested 17 suspected terrorists in three different provinces, accused of belonging to the Jamaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) network.
- On July 27 the Democratic Civil Administration in the northern Syrian Arab-majority city of Manbij confirmed the discovery of 29 bodies in a mass grave; the victims had been killed by ISIS sometime between 2014 and 2016.
- The Iraqi Ministry of Migration and Displaced noted that there are nearly 30,000 Iraqis living in northeast Syria’s notorious al-Hol camp, including 10,000 foreigners; many (most?) have ties to ISIS.
- Syria’s semi-autonomous Kurdish administration handed Tajikistan 146 women and children related to ISIS over to Tajikistan’s ambassador to Kuwait, who is handling the repatriation process to their homeland.
- ISIS terrorists have killed just under 400 people in the disputed territories between Iraq and the Kurdistan Region from January 2021 to April 2022.
- On July 30 Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) claimed it had thwarted an attempted ISIS attack in the Tarmiyah district, north of Baghdad.
- Eight suspected ISIS members were killed by twin Iraqi airstrikes in the west of Nineveh province on July 28.
- A group of Islamist terrorists attacked the town of Nangade in the northern Mozambican province of Cabo Delgado but were all killed or captured by the Mozambican defence forces and their allies from SAMIM (SADC Mission in Mozambique) on July 26.
- Unidentified terrorists attacked presidential guards in the capital city, Abuja, killing eight soldiers (one source says they were BH). Both Boko Haram (BH) and Islamic State West African Province have been active in the region of late. These acts have begun to affect economic activities in the capital, causing fear and trepidation among residents, who fear being attacked, killed or kidnapped from their homes. Parents in particular are becoming anxious as rising insecurity forces schools closures in Abuja.
- A BH-planted IED killed eight repentant Boko Haram members, who had reportedly gone to deal in scrap metals, on July 25
- After being displaced by BH/ISWAP attacks in northeastern Nigeria’s Borno State, thousands of people are at risk of extreme poverty and labour exploitation as the camps they have been living in are closed.
- Nigerian security agencies have reported that BH and ISWAP plan to attack Lagos, Kaduna, Kogi, Katsina, and Zamfara states as well as the Federal Capital Territory.
- The Chairman of Nigeria’s House of Representatives Committee on Defence has asked President Buhari to consider hiring mercenaries to tackle worsening insecurity in the country. A previous president, Jonathan Goodluck, hired South Africa’s Specialized Tasks, Training, Equipment and Protection (STTEP) to fight BH in 2015.
- Not all is going well for President Buhari: on July 27 senators from across party lines called for his impeachment over the escalation of terror attacks in the country.
- Eight years after BH abducted 276 girls from their school dormitory, three of the Chibok girls have been rescued by the Nigerian army: more than 100 are still missing.
- On July 30 Nigerian forces were reported to have arrested a BH leader in Ogun State.
- Pakistani security forces killed six terrorists in Balochistan on July 30.
- Terror charges were filed on July 31 against a Palestinian accused of bashing a Bnei Brak man over the head with a piece of paving stone and seriously injuring him earlier in July.
- On July 25 Israeli forces thwarted terror attack in Gush Etzion by a man wielding a Molotov cocktail and an ‘improvised’ gun.
- Protestors in the Burkina Faso capital, Ougadougou, demonstrated on July 29, claiming that the French anti-jihadist military effort in the country “ignites terrorism and fuels wars and genocides”.
- Al-Qaeda jihadists are tightening the screws on Mali’s military junta, extending their attacks to the south of the country and hitting a key garrison town on the outskirts of the capital. On July 28 six simultaneous attacks occurred, killing at least 15 soldiers and three civilians, while on July 29 two explosive-laden vehicles smashed into the gates of an army building in Kati, 15 kilometres from Bamako, killing a soldier. The suicide raid was claimed by the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM), the main jihadist alliance in the Sahel and an Al-Qaeda affiliate.
- Recent research shows that Islamist attacks in Burkina Faso and Mali have risen since the military coups.
- A PKK terrorist is facing 18 aggravated life sentences and a total of 1,258 years in prison for his role in a 2008 terrorist attack in Istanbul in which 18 were killed and more than 150 injured.
- Turkey expects Germany to cooperate against terrorist groups such as the PKK. Turkey has used the PKK card to push back against efforts by Sweden and Finland to join NATO, accusing both of giving shelter to PKK members.
- A Turkish National Intelligence Agency (MIT) “point operation” in the Kurdish city of Sulaimani killed a leading PKK terrorist on July 28.
- The MIT has carried out 20 major cross-border operations against terrorist organisations since the start of 2022, ‘neutralising’ 21 PKK terrorists.
- Jihadists have been trying to expand their operating area in West Africa and as a consequence Cote d’Ivoire, Benin and Togo are now facing more and more regular incursions.
- French President Macron stated on July 27 that France could deliver drones and more sophisticated weapons to Benin to help it tackle a worsening Islamist insurgency that is threatening the region.
- The Irish Court of Appeal refused to hear a bail application for Lisa Smith, a former Irish soldier who was sentenced to 15 months in prison for joining ISIS when she travelled to Syria in 2015 (NB catch Borealis’ Quick Hits Perspective on this case here).
- An Australian man already accused of funding an overseas fighter to travel to Syria to join terrorist groups battling government forces, has also been charged with advocating for a terrorism act.
- A convicted UK terrorist who recruited ISIS fighters and ‘radicalised’ Manchester Arena bomber Salman Abedi is attempting to gain parole.
- A US judge has postponed the sentencing for a Syrian refugee/ISIS wannabe convicted of plotting to bomb a North Side church so that prosecutors have time to review a defense report indicating psychological trauma from the Syrian civil war was largely to blame for the crime. The man had pledged allegiance to ISIS in a statement he videotaped and made arrangements with two sympathisers – FBI agents as it turned out – to carry out the attack.
- The US Justice Department stated that one of the reasons behind the doubling of domestic terrorism cases since early 2020 is the number of prosecutions related to the January 2021 Capitol riot, which make up “at least a significant portion of that jump.”
- An Australian who made online posts advocating right-wing terrorism will be released from custody immediately after he was given a prison sentence he has already served.
We will be back next week with another summary of global terrorism.