Podcast 3#: W(h)ither Islamic State?

There have been a lot of very good analytic pieces on Islamic State of late, especially in the wake of US President Trump’s Tweet “we have won against ISIS; we’ve beaten them, and we’ve beaten them badly”.  Here are links to  a few:

The US office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) stated that IS “still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria, and it maintains eight branches, more than a dozen networks, and thousands of dispersed supporters around the world, despite significant leadership and territorial losses…Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s organization “will exploit any reduction in CT pressure to strengthen its clandestine presence and accelerate rebuilding key capabilities, such as media production and external operations.”

The US intelligence community also thinks the Islamic State “very likely will continue to pursue external attacks from Iraq and Syria against regional and Western adversaries, including the United States.”

Featured fortnightly attack: the IS affiliate attack in the southern Philippines

Here is a good Jamestown Terrorism Monitor analysis of the attack.

Terrorism this fortnight (January 15 – 28 2019)


Coalition forces killed at least 15 Taliban and Islamic State-Khurasan (IS-K) terrorists in a number of Afghan provinces from January 15 to 16.

Afghan special forces conducted a clearance operation in Qal’ah-e Now district of Badghis, killing 39 Taliban fighters and destroying 30 IEDs, military officials said on January 17. 

Several Taliban militants including two of their key commanders have been killed during separate operations conducted in northern Baghlan and Sar-e-Pul provinces of Afghanistan on January 18.

At least 15 Taliban militants were killed or wounded during the airstrikes of the Afghan Air Force in northern Kunduz province of Afghanistan on January 18.

A car bomb targeting the convoy of the governor of Afghanistan’s Logar province killed eight and wounded ten on January 20.  The Taliban claimed the attack.

At least 100 people were killed January 21, including 40 inteliigence officials  in a Taliban-claimed attack on a military compound in central Afghanistan, officials said, as the insurgents continue to batter the war-torn country’s beleaguered security forces.

The attack began after a vehicle loaded with explosives rammed into the entrance of a compound in Maidan Shahr — the capital of Wardak province that lies about 50 kilometres south of the capital Kabul.

At least three gunmen stormed the base following the explosion, igniting a firefight with Afghan security forces. All three gunmen were later killed in the exchange, according to a provincial official.

“So far our reports show 100 have been killed and 20 wounded, most of whom were Afghan security forces,” Akhtar Mohammad Taheri — the head of Wardak provincial council — told AFP.

“The Taliban used a Humvee vehicle to hit the compound,” Taheri added.

Afghan officials claimed that a subsequent airstrike killed the mastermind of the attack.

Five senior Taliban leaders including the shadow judge of the group and 56 other terrorists were killed during the operations of the Afghan Special Forces in northern Faryab province of Afghanistan on January 24.

Afghan security forces foiled an attack by Taliban militants on an army outpost in eastern Laghman province on January 21, leaving at least two militants dead.

Three terrorist networks were dismantled during operations of the Afghan Intelligence (National Directorate of Security) forces in southern Kandahar province in mid January.   The terrorist networks were comprised of 30 militants who were all arrested by the intelligence operatives.  The detained militants were involved in major destructive activities including explosions, suicide bombings, and armed attacks.  According to the governor’s office, the militants were conducting attacks in Kandahar city and other districts of Kandahar province, mainly targeting security compounds, security check posts, and logistics convoys.  

At least five militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Khurasan (ISIS-K) were killed in separate drone strikes conducted in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan on January 22

The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies  (FDD) analyst Bill roggio wrote an interesting piece on Taliban training camps in Afghanistan on January 22.

At least four people have been killed an in explosion in a volleyball ground in northern Baghlan province of Afghanistan, the local government officials said Saturday.

The incident took place late on Friday afternoon in the vicinity of Tala Wa Barfak district of the province.

The officials are saying that the explosion has also left at least twenty others wounded.


Former Rajshahi University student Shariful Islam alias Khalid was involved in Dr Rezaul Karim’s killing and was a key planner of Gulshan attack, Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) said on Saturday.

Khalid, a suspected member of banned militant outfit Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh, was arrested from Chapainawabganj’s Nachol Upazila on Friday.

“The former English department student of 2010-11 session got involved in militancy through his friend Shovon. On April 23, 2016, Khalid and his cohorts killed Rezaul Karim,” Rab spokesperson Mufti Mahmud Khan told a media conference in Dhaka.

He went into hiding after the killing but was sentenced to death for his teacher’s murder.

“He later played a key role in planning the Holey Artisan attack,” the Rab officer said.

On July 1, 2016, five militants stormed the upscale cafe; and killed 22 people, including nine Italians, seven Japanese, one Indian, one Bangladeshi-born American and two Bangladeshis along with two police officers. It was the worst terror attack in Bangladesh’s history.

Khalid went into hiding after the attack and reemerged in October 2017 to reorganise militants to destabilise the country.

Quoting him, the Rab spokesperson said: “Militants affiliated with neo-JMB are trying to regroup to fill up the void left by the arrest of top militant leaders.”


The Federal Judicial Police of Liège confirms January 24 the arrest of a man suspected of preparing a terrorist attack.

According to the prosecutor, the man showed a great interest for knives and was at risk of preparing to act. 

The man was arrested in Molenbeek-Saint-Jean in Brussels and police have also conducted other searches at several locations.


The Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina has charged Munib Ahmetspahic – who was previously acquitted of having a role in the 2011 attack on the US embassy in Bosnia – with membership of a terrorist formation in Syria.

Ahmetspahic, born in Zenica in 1990, is charged with staying on the territory of Syria and Iraq from 2013 to 2018 as a member of Al-Nusrah Front paramilitary formation.  He is charged with having joined terrorist organizations, and with having participated in battles and terrorist activities, in which he was severely wounded in Syria.  Ahmetspahic was previously tried for connections with the attack on the US embassy in Sarajevo on October 28, 2011, for which the gunman, Mevlid Jasarevic, was found quilty.

Jasarevic had fired shots at the embassy in Sarajevo for some 50 minutes, firing at least 105 bullets, wounding a policeman guarding the building and threatening embassy officials.  Ahmetspahic went on trial with Jasarevic in 2012, but was acquitted of having participated in the organisation of a terrorist group.


The Bulgarian Prosecution announced on Saturday that it has indicted six people, five of whom are in custody, for the alleged illicit money transfer of over 25 million euros and smuggling at least 100 vehicles to Syria

Burkina Faso

A Canadian kidnapped in Burkina Faso was found dead, two days after he was abducted according to his family.

Kirk Woodman, originally from Halifax, was abducted by a dozen gunmen at a mining site owned by Vancouver-based Progress Minerals near the border with Niger, in an area the government says is under growing threat from armed jihadists. 

A spokesperson for the Burkina Faso Security Ministry said Woodman had been shot and his body was found Wednesday night, 100 kilometres from the site where he worked.

Gunmen killed four Burkina Faso soldiers and injured five others near the Malian border on January 28, a day after 10 civilians were killed nearby in a separate attack, the army and security officials said.

Jihadist groups, already a major security headache for neighbouring Mali and Niger, have rapidly spread into Burkina Faso’s remote north in the past two months, killing soldiers and civilians in a spate of attacks.

The soldiers killed in the assault belonged to an anti-terrorism unit operating in the Nassoumbou area in northern Burkina Faso, the army said in a statement. The same unit lost 12 soldiers in December 2016 in an attack claimed by Ansarul Islam, an al Qaeda-linked insurgent group.

On Sunday unidentified gunmen targeted a road leading to a market in the village of Sikire, in the same region, killing 10 civilians, two security sources told Reuters.

A local cow herder who witnessed the attack but who declined to be named for fear of reprisals said several gunmen had arrived on motorbikes and started shooting apparently at random.

Once seen as one of West Africa’s safest countries, Burkina Faso was forced to impose a six-month state of emergency in its northern provinces from Dec. 31. Security has worsened in recent months, primarily due to Islamist militant attacks near the landlocked country’s porous border with Mali.

The capital, Ouagadougou, was also hit by several attacks in the past three years targeting Westerners. Thousands of people have fled their home as a result of the attacks and reprisals by Burkina Faso forces, Human Rights Watch reported last year.

Violence in West Africa’s semi-arid Sahel region continues to worsen five years after France intervened in Mali, a former French colony, to drive back Islamist militants who had seized the country’s desert north.


 Around 30,000 people fled into Cameroon on the weekend of January 26-27 from the Nigerian city of Rann, fearing an attack by Boko Haram militants.  Residents panicked and fled after the Multinational Joint Task Force, which had gone to secure Rann, left the city. Refugees said Boko Haram subsequently promised to return to Rann


Colombia’s ELN rebel group was responsible for the car bomb attack against a police academy that killed at least 21 and injured dozens, the government said on Friday, making it unlikely that peace talks with the armed group can restart any time soon.In Thursday’s attack, a vehicle driven by ELN explosives expert Jose Aldemar Rojas broke through checkpoints onto the grounds of the General Santander School before it detonated, shattering windows of apartments nearby, Defence Minister Guillermo Botero said.  “A terrorist act by the ELN took those lives,” he told reporters in Bogota.

The National Liberation Army (ELN), made up of some 2,000 fighters and considered a terrorist organisation by the United States and European Union, began peace talks with the government of former President Juan Manuel Santos in early 2017, but they have been put on hold. Right-wing President Ivan Duque has demanded the ELN free its 17 hostages and stops attacks before new talks can begin. The ELN has dismissed the conditions as unacceptable.


A 31-year-old Syrian man with a Swedish address is currently on trial on terror charges at Copenhagen City Court.

Two kitchen knives, fireworks, batteries and 17,460 matches were among the equipment the man, who lives in Malmö, planned to use to attack people at random in the Danish capital, according to the charges to be brought in the trial, which began on Tuesday


Egypt’s Ministry of the Interior announced on January 17 the killing of five members of a terrorist cell in Arish city, North Sinai.  According to the National Security Agency’s investigations, the cell was planning to attack vital installations and officials in Arish.

A raid was launched at the cell’s reported hideout. The terrorists fired heavily at police forces, who responded by returning fire and killing five terrorists.

Three automatic rifles, a gun, an IED, and an explosive belt were found in their possession.

An Egyptian court was set to hold a hearing on January 19 in the trial of 213 members of the ISIS-affiliated group “Wilayat Sinai” accused of committing 54 terrorist crimes.

The defendants face charges of murdering police officers, soldiers and civilians and of involvement in the assassination attempt of former interior minister Mohamed Ibrahim, in addition to bombing several security facilities and carrying out a number of terrorist attacks.

The group pledged allegiance to ISIS in November 2014, then renamed itself ISIS-Wilayat Sinai.

Egypt announced on January 22 that at least seven troops, including an officer, weree been killed in clashes with militants in recent operations in restive northern Sinai Peninsula.  The military said in a statement that forces killed at least 59 suspected militants and arrested another 142 suspected militants and criminals.  According to the statement, airstrikes destroyed 56 vehicles containing weapons and ammunition in the Western Desert, south and northeastern border areas.


Indian security forces killed a notorious and heavily sought-after bomb-maker and chief commander of the Pakistani-connected Al-Badr organization in the Jammu and Kashmir region in mid-January. Indian officials and news sources identified the commander as Zeenat-ul-Islam, and illustrated his ties with numerous US-designated foreign terror organizations in the region, including Al-Badr and Hizbul Mujahideen. A second terrorist, identified as Shakeel Dar, was also killed and has been described as Islam’s “aide.”

Questioning of the nine persons picked up over the last three days by the  Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad has indicated that the terror suspects may have been planning to poison food and water sources at public gatherings, investigators claimed.

The ATS nabbed four suspects from Aurangabad and five from Mumbra, for allegedly planning terrorist activities in the State and elsewhere.

Eight of the accused were placed under arrest in the early hours of Wednesday.  The arrested accused have been identified as Mohseen Khan, Salman Khan, Taki Khan, Fahad Shah, Zamen Kutepadi, Mohammad Mazhar Shaikh, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Zahid Shaikh and a 17-year-old.

Mohseen, Salman and Taki are brothers, whose main task was to recruit and radicalise young men. They created a social media group called Ummat-e-Mohammdiya (followers/disciples of Prophet Muhammed) for the purpose. The ATS seized several bottles of chemicals, including hydrogen peroxide, from the suspects. It said it wanted to question the accused if they were out to execute a chemical attack on the Kumbh Mela in Prayagraj or Republic Day events.


In a move to curry favour with conservative Muslims, Indonesian President Widodo authorised the release of extremist cleric Abu Bakar Basa’yir on Janiary 18.  Basa’yir is the most important jihadi preacher in Indonesia and was behind the mindset of several terrorist attacks in the archipelago, including the 2002 Bali bombings.  The Indonesian Ulama Council (MUI) praised the President’s decisionUpon his release Basa’yir refused to renounce his violent views, stating he was ‘only answerable to God’.

The legal advisor for incumbent presidential and vice presidential candidate Jokowi – Ma’ruf Amin previously reported to President Jokowi about Abu Bakar’s unwillingness to sign a letter of allegiance to the Pancasila.

The pledge was one of the requirements to receive his parole after 2/3rd of his total prison sentence. However, Baasyir refused to sign the pledge.


A Bengali citizen was killed January 15 in a bomb blast in central Erbil, the capital city of Iraqi Kurdistan, a security source was quoted as saying.  “An explosive charge hidden inside a container went off at a garbage dump in central Erbil, leaving one person dead,” the source told Baghdad Today website.  “The victim was found to be a Bengal citizen,” the source added.

Three Iraqi police officers were injured when IS attacked a checkpoint in Diyala province on January 15.

Four Americans were among 19 people killed in Syria on January 16 in a suicide bombing that was claimed by the Islamic State, just weeks after President Trump ordered the withdrawal of United States forces and declared that the extremist group had been defeated.

The attack targeted an American military convoy in the northern city of Manbij while troops were inside the Palace of the Princes, a restaurant where they often stopped to eat during patrols, residents said. While the Americans were inside, a nearby suicide attacker wearing an explosive vest blew himself up.

It was at least the sixth major attack by the Islamic State in less than a month, according to one United States official, and was one of the deadliest days that the American-led coalition had suffered in the fight against the group.

Two children were wounded in a bomb blast west of Fallujah on January 23

Pro-government fighters of Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi thwarted on January 23 a planned attack by Islamic State militants on security forces in a village on the Iraqi-Syrian border, leaving 43 terrorists dead and wounded.  “Iraqi artillery targeted a hotbed grouping IS militants in the village of Baghuz on the Iraqi-Syrian border after receiving intelligence reports about a plot by those extremists to attack security forces,”  “The artillery shelling left 43 IS militants dead and wounded, and destroyed a large number of weaponry and armored vehicles that were planned to be used in the attack on the security forces,”  Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi, an alliance of volunteer Shia paramilitary forces, actively backed the Iraqi government’s military campaign against IS since 2014, when they were formed upon a top Shia clergy edict to counter the Sunni Jihadist group.  They won official recognition as a national force in late 2016, becoming under the command of the prime minister, who is also the supreme commander of the armed forces

A suicide car bomb on January 23 targeted an Iraqi federal police forces security checkpoint in southwestern Kirkuk province, killing at least one security member, the defense ministry announced.

The bombing, which the ministry labeled a “terrorist” attack, took place at the entrance of Riyadh town, located in southwestern Kirkuk.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, but over the past year, the Islamic State has repeatedly carried out similar assaults in the area. 

A suicide car bomb on January 23 targeted an Iraqi federal police forces security checkpoint in southwestern Kirkuk province, killing at least one security member, the defense ministry announced.

The bombing, which the ministry labeled a “terrorist” attack, took place at the entrance of Riyadh town, located in southwestern Kirkuk.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, but over the past year, the Islamic State has repeatedly carried out similar assaults in the area.


The ‘New IRA’ is believed to have been behind a car b0mb that exploded outside a courthouse in Derry on the evening of January 19.  No injuries were reported. 

British Army technical officers carried out a controlled explosion on a hijacked vehicle in Derry’s Circular Road on January 21 afternoon.

A cordon remains in place.


Police in the Sicilian city of Catania on January 23 arrested an Italian convert to Islam for allegedly instigating people to join terrorist groups, sources said. The man, a 32-year-old Catania native with a criminal record, allegedly used social media to spread extremist propaganda after becoming a Muslim in 2011, according to investigations. He has been taken to jail, the sources said


Al Shabaab claimed an attack on an upscale office and hotel in Nairobi on January 15  The attack unfolded a day after the beginning of a trial of those involved in the 2013 AS attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi in which 67 people were killed.  On January 18 Kenyan authorities announced that they had arrested nine people they believe may have been linked to the attack.

Al Shabaab released a two-page statement on the attack.  The group is eager to frame the assault as part of a larger, global struggle, but it also makes its animosity for the Kenyan government known.

The group says that it “carried out this operation – codenamed Operation ‘Jerusalem will never be Judaized’ – in accordance with the guidelines of Sheikh Ayman al-Zawahiri,” who called on al Qaeda’s global membership to target “western and Zionist interests worldwide and in support of our Muslim families in Palestine.”


An official with the United Nations mission in Mali stated on January 20 that jihadists linked to al-Qaeda killed six peacekeepers and injured 19 others in an attack on a peacekeepers’ camp in Aguelhoc, in northern Mali’s Kidal region.  Residents confirmed the Sunday morning assault saying that attackers came in motorcycles and cars. The Aguelhoc camp houses peacekeepers from Chad.

A branch of Al Qaeda in northwestern Africa claimed responsibility for an attack on a United Nations base in Mali that killed 10 Chadian peacekeepers on Sunday, saying it was in response to Chad’s resumption of diplomatic relations with Israel.


Morocco’s Central Bureau of Judicial Investigation  dismantled a terror cell of 13 members on January 23 in the town of Klaat Sraghna in central Morocco and in three cities on the Atlantic coast: Sale, Mohammedia, and Casablanca.

The suspects, whose ages ranged from 22 to 44, include two individuals who had previously been arrested on charges related to the anti-terrorism law.

A statement from the Ministry of the Interior said BCIJ seized electronic devices; knives; an allegiance script supporting Abubakr al-Baghdadi, the self-styled caliph of ISIS; and a handwritten letter inciting to terrorism.

The ministry added that the suspects had glorified terror attacks and attempted to incite people to commit terror crimes to undermine safety and security of the country.


Ten civilians were killed in northern Mozambique in mid January by an Islamist extremist group calling itself Al Shabaab (no relation to the terrorists in Somalia under the same name).


Suspected Boko haram terrorists killed at least 10 civilians and set many houses ablaze in Rann, Borno State on January 15.  A local official who was not authorised to speak to the press said many houses were burnt down, including the military base and a United Nations hub.  Rann has been attackd a few times in the last one year, with one of such prompting the United Nations to withdraw its staff from the place

The Nigerian Army on January 17 said its troops had successfully repelled attacks coordinated by Boko Haram insurgents at Gajiram community in Ngazai Local Government Area of Borno State.

The Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, Operation Lafiya Dole, Col. Onyema Nwachukwu, said in a statement that the troops killed several insurgents and recovered weapons when the terrorists tried to infiltrate the community on Tuesday.

On January 20 the Nigerian army announced it had killed two Boko Haram terrorists and rescued two older women in Borno State.

The US issued a warning to its citizens in Nigeria that both Boko Haram and Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA) were planning to disrupt this year’s national elections.  While specific targets were not given it was noted that Nigerian state institutions as well as public places such as markets, hotels, malls, schools, places of worship, hospitals, transportation hubs, government offices and tourist locations.

The Nigerian army claimed in killed four Boko Haram terrorists on January 25


Al Shabaab (AS) announced on January 15 that it had executed an IS commander in southern Somalia.  As noted in the first podcast, AS and the IS affioiate in Somalia have been gong at it amer and tongs for years in the east Adrica narion.  A terrorist known as Yahya Haji fiile used to be with AS but fell out ith teh gry afte it illed another IS defector, Bashir Abu Numan.  Amniyat, the AS interna security branch, has been hnting down formers who joined, or ecven expressed sympathy for, IS.  Fiile had been in a sort of ‘reconciliaiton process’ with AS before his murder. The recent declaration of war on IS by AS leaders probably had an impact on that.

Ethiopian troops on January 18 engaged in combat with Al-Shabaab fighters in the town of Buur Hakaba in Somalia’s southern Bay Region, multiple sources reported.

One source, a VOA journalist described the confrontation as one of the deadliest saying that the insurgents had attacked the convoy of the troops with an improvised explosive device, IED

On January 19 it was learned that AS had taken 100 civilians hostage in SW Somalia.

The US announced on January 20 that airstrikes had killed 52 AS terrorists.  The strikes came in response to an AS attack on a Somali military base 370 km SW of Mogadishu.

At least four people were reported to have been wounded when a car bomb went off at a bank in Mogadishu on January 23.

Somali National Army (SNA)  arrested three senior al-Shabab (AS) members in an operation conducted on January 20 in the country’s southern region of Bakol, according to officials on January 21.  Dahir Ali Mohamed, the commander of 260 unit section nine, told journalists that their forces apprehended three high-profile militants in the Amniyat, AS’s intelligence wing in an operation in the region.

AS carried out a bomb attack against a convoy carrying Somali troops on the outskirts of Mogadishu on January 22.  At least two government soldiers were reported to have been killed and several wounded in the incident, according to a local resident, who spoke to Radio Shabelle by phone.  The attack was the latest in a string of ambushes against Somali and AU troops traveling routinely on the street as the allied forces ramp up military operation in the region.

Ethiopia announced on January 31 that an airstrike its Air Force had carried out a week earlier (January 24) had killed 35 Al Shabaab terrorists and destroyed military  vehicles and weapons.


Spanish police launched a counter-terrorism operation in Barcelona and a nearby city on January 15 against a cell suspected of plotting an attack, a police spokesman said.

Two people had been arrested in Barcelona and Igualada, 60 kilometres (40 miles) west of the Catalan capital, as part of the raid, the spokesman for Catalonia’s police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra, told AFP. Further arrests were expected, he added.

“The goal (of the cell) was to attack but we are still investigating which places may have been targeted,” the spokesman said.   

The Catalan regional police service, Mossos d’Esquadra, have arrested a least 17 people who they believe are linked to a jihadist cell based in and around Barcelona.

The arrests, made during a raid, are part of a year-long counter-terrorism investigation called “Operation Alexandra”, which gathered information on terrorist activity in Barcelona and the town of Igualada, located 70 km away from the Catalan capital.

More than 100 agents participated in the operation, which started on Tuesday morning.

The investigation was started in 2017 when police were informed that a local jihadist cell was preparing an attack, reported EFE news agency.

Police said on Twitter the suspects were arrested as part of an investigation into “crimes of terrorism, public health offences and organised crime.”


A suspected southern militant was shot dead in a predawn clash with army rangers in Kapor district of Pattani on January 23.

The  suspect was identified as Sulaiman Muhammad who was  wanted by the Narathiwat Provincial Court in an unrest case in the Deep South.

According to police, a team of army rangers encircled a house in Tambon Karubee after receiving a tipoff that a wanted militant was hiding inside


Two Trinidadian children kidnapped and taken to Syria by their ISIS fighter father in 2014 were reunited with their Trinidadian mother in mid January.  The dilemma of what to do with the ‘children of IS’ will be featured in an upcoming podcast.


Three residents of Lansing, Michigan, were arrested without incident on January 21 for conspiring to provide material support to IS. 

The long arm of the terrorism law

A Sri Lankan court sentenced two member of the LTTE Tamil terrorist group to 10 years in prison for an attack on an air force base in October 2007.

By Phil Gurski

Phil Gurski is the President and CEO of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting Ltd. Phil is a 32-year veteran of CSE and CSIS and the author of six books on terrorism.

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