Bulgarian court convicts two Hezbollah-linked men with 2012 Burgas bus bombing

Convicted Burgas Airport bus bombing accomplices Meliad Farah and Hassan el-Hajj
Meliad Farah, a Lebanese-Australian, and Hassan el-Hajj, a Lebanese-Canadian, were convicted and sentenced today in absentia by a Bulgarian Special Criminal Court to life in prison for their roles in aiding a suicide bomber who blew up a bus at the Burgas Airport in 2012. The attack killed five Israeli tourists and their bus driver.
Prosecutors in the case charged that Farah and el-Hajj entered the country months before the assault using fake documents and provided explosives including logistical support to the bomber. Both were able to flee the country to an unknown destination.
The New York Times, quoting an unnamed American official after the bombing, said the strike was in retaliation for the assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists, for which Iran has blamed Israeli agents — an accusation that Israel has neither confirmed nor denied. “This was tit for tat,” said the American official.
The bomber, Mohamad Hassan el-Husseini, was captured on an airport security camera walking near one of the airport’s entrances carrying a large bag which investigators determined to have contained the bomb used in the offensive.
The prosecutor in the case, Evgenia Shtarkelova, said the men used forged identification cards printed in Lebanon and the attackers had family links to Hezbollah. Also, the bomb used in the assault contained ammonium nitrate which has previously been used by Hezbollah.
Although Hezbollah has denied being involved, the strike fits it modus operandi and that of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC) as both have carried out multiple acts of terrorism abroad for decades.
On Sept. 20, Bahrain’s Interior Ministry said it “foiled an attack” earlier this year orchestrated by the IRGC.
The investigation found that a group called the “Qassem Soleimani Brigade” — a moniker referring to the former IRGC Qods Force general killed by the U.S. in Iraq earlier this year — planned to attack public and security structures in the country. The plot was foiled when security forces located an explosive device in an area meant for visiting foreign delegations.
The conviction of Farah and el-Hajj is a bittersweet victory for the victims of the strike. The ruling recognizes el-Hajj’s and Farah’s complicity in the terror assault. However, due to the vast support network Hezbollah and the IRGC enjoy across Europe and the Middle East, it is unlikely the pair will ever be extradited to face their sentences in Bulgaria.
Joe Truzman is a contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Burgas, hezbollah, IRGC, Israel

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Analysis: A ‘Tired’ Taliban talking point

For the past decade and a half, American politicians, military leaders, and reporters have claimed that the Taliban is “tired,” “desperate,” “war weary” – despite the fact the Taliban has sparked “near-record violence” in Afghanistan, according to the United Nations.
That did not stop President Donald Trump from adding to the tired narrative when he repeated the “tired” canard on Sept. 18.
“We’re dealing very well with the Taliban,” Trump said, according to Reuters. “They’re very tough, they’re very smart, they’re very sharp, but you know it’s been 19 years and even they are tired of fighting, in all fairness.”
The “even” in the last sentence is telling as it is an admission that the U.S. has exhausted itself in Afghanistan. Trump has been so desperate to leave Afghanistan that he signed a withdrawal deal with the Taliban that legitimized the group and delegitimized the Afghan government – and absolved the Taliban for its role in sheltering Al Qaeda both before and after 9/11.
Trump’s statement that the Taliban is “tired” is nothing new. He said the same thing in early Feb. 2019, and again in late Feb. 2020.
However, Trump is merely following the time-honored tradition of declaring the Taliban to be exhausted of the fight.
Reports of a “tired” Taliban can be traced back to 2004, when the Christian Science Monitor quoted Al-Hajj Mullah Abdul Samad Khaksar, the group’s former interior minister. “Most of the local ordinary Taliban are tired of fighting, they are eager to come back to the country and live here in peace,” Khaksar told CSM. Within a year, the Taliban reinvigorated its insurgency and began to take over large areas of southern and eastern Afghanistan.
At the height of the “surge” in 2011, when the U.S. sent more than 100,000 troops to battle the Taliban, which controlled large swaths of Afghanistan, The Guardian reported that “both the west and the Taliban are tired now and keen to move toward a resolution.”
In June 2011, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that “we have broken the Taliban’s momentum.”
President Barack Obama repeated Clinton’s words in his 2012 State of the Union address. “The Taliban’s momentum has been broken,” Obama said.
In Sept. 2012, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta claimed that the green-on-blue attacks, in which Afghan security personnel are killing Coalition forces, were evidence of the “last gasp” of the Taliban. FDD’s Long War Journal took the unusual step of commissioning a cartoon to highlight the absurdity of Panetta’s statement.
In 2013, Russia Today was telling us that the Taliban was “war weary” and was prepared to form a political party (the Taliban has explicitly stated elections and a western form of government are forbidden in Islam). Purported Afghanistan expert Rashid Waziri said that “the Taliban are tired of war and it will be a step in the right direction if they launch a political movement.”
General John Campbell, who then led US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, talked about a sapped Taliban in May 2015, which was ready for peace. From Sputnik News:

Campbell explained that the resource drain combined with lack of leadership, supplies and funding have contributed to the Taliban weakening and fracturing on the battlefield…
The Taliban are tired from fighting for 14 years and want to get on with their lives, Campbell argued, so they might be ready and willing to engage in peace talks with the Afghan government.

The Taliban merely waited out the surge, regained its momentum and overcame its supposed war weariness, dying last gasp, fracturing, and lack of leadership and resources. By 2015, the Taliban was retaking control of multiple districts throughout the country. Months after Campbell’s interview with Sputnik News, the depleted Taliban overran Kunduz City, and held it for more than two weeks before U.S. troops were forced to intervene.
One year later, a Taliban commander who admitted that he likely killed U.S. troops, told The Washington Post that the Taliban is “tired and will join if the [Afghan] government pays them, and if the government provides jobs for them,” The U.S. has attempted to pay thousands of Taliban fighters to quit the fight. The effort failed as most of them took the money and rejoined the Taliban. In late 2016, the tired Taliban again overran Kunduz City.
In 2018, Pentagon chief spokesperson Dana W. White described the Taliban as “desperate” because, she claimed without providing any evidence, that it is “losing ground.” Additionally, White said that over the last year, “things are moving in the right direction.” White doubled down on this sentiment less than two weeks later. In the two weeks between White’s triumphant assessment, the Taliban overran Farah City. Throughout 2018, the Taliban continued to slowly but surely gain ground.
Trump is not alone in repeating the fable that the Taliban is tired. As history has shown, the only tired thing is the narrative, as the Taliban has shown itself to be resilient in the face of long odds, and has shrugged off the multitude of assessments that it is exhausted.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Afghanistan, Exhausted, Momentum is broken, Taliban, Tired

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Islamic State claims killing French aid workers, clashes with al Qaeda in the Sahel

Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) fighters seen clashing with al Qaeda’s Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) near Talataye in northern Mali on Aug. 11.
In a new issue of the Islamic State’s weekly Al-Naba newsletter, the jihadist group said its men were responsible for the Aug. 9 massacre of six French aid workers and two Nigeriens. Additionally, it reported a series of new clashes with al Qaeda across the Sahel.On Aug 9, eight French and Niger nationals were attacked by armed gunmen outside of Koure, Niger, just around 40 miles southeast of Niger’s capital Niamey. The workers were captured and later summarily executed by gunshot, while one woman was found with her throat slit.
Initially reported as French tourists, local aid organizations, ACTED and IMPACT, later confirmed the death of their staff in the ambush.
For over a month the murders went unclaimed by any armed group in the region, though suspicion quickly fell on the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS), the Islamic State’s local branch.
Other groups, such as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, even denied responsibility. The Islamic State previously mentioned the event in an earlier issue of Al-Naba, but did not actually claim the incident.
But in this week’s issue of the newsletter, it finally owned up to the massacre. It is unclear why the jihadist group decided to wait over a month to official claim the operation. However, it is possible it delayed a statement to gauge the reaction of both international media and the French government.
Perpetrated by ISGS and claimed under its West African Province moniker, the Islamic State justified the killings as part of its war against France. The group said its men “conducted a swift attack with automatic gunfire upon a number of French Crusader subjects in the Koure region southeast of Niamey.”
Speaking to the significance of the ambush, it adds “the apostates and crusaders have acknowledged the strike and have shown their fear that this will impact their military campaign. This operation created a media sensation due to the nationalities of those killed.”
Little other information was provided regarding the raid. Though a photo of some of the victims, apparently from a video of the executions, was provided in the newsletter.
In addition to the ambush on the aid workers, the Islamic State also reported a number of other smaller operations across the Sahel. For instance, it continued to advertise its war against the various armed groups in northern Mali.
The newsletter stated that on Aug. 3, Islamic State gunmen assassinated a commander within the Movement for the Salvation of Azawad (MSA) south of Menaka.
While in a claim dated for Sept. 6, the newsletter reported that the jihadists captured a commander within the Arab Movement of Azawad (MAA) also in Menaka. The commander was later executed after being accused of acting as a spy for both France and Algeria against ISGS.
ISGS has long been at war with MSA, as well as its ally the Imghad Tuareg Self-Defense Group and Allies (GATIA), in Mali’s northern Menaka region. MSA and GATIA conducted a series of campaigns against ISGS in the region in 2018.
However, this week’s Al-Naba marks the first time that the Islamic State’s central media apparatus has advertised attacks against MAA in Mali.
Renewed Clashes with Al Qaeda
The Islamic State’s newsletter also dedicated a significant amount of space to discuss a renewed series of clashes with al Qaeda’s Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) across the Sahel.
Beginning on July 25, the Islamic State claims its men killed 50 JNIM fighters east of Menaka. A day later, it reported a clash near N’Daki close to the Burkinabe borders. While on July 31, it said another clash took place in Kerboule in Burkina’s Soum Province.
On Aug. 2 and 4, two additional battles reportedly occurred in the Mali-Burkina Faso borderlands. Three days later on Aug. 7, a skirmish was reported near In-Tillit in Mali’s Gao Region. And on Aug. 9, the Islamic State alleges 60 JNIM members were killed near Deou in Burkina Faso’s Oudalan Province.
Then on Aug. 11, the Islamic State says its men killed at least 52 JNIM members in a battle near Talataye in Mali’s Gao Region. While details were scarce on this event in the newsletter, the Islamic State released a video yesterday of this skirmish through its Amaq News Agency.
The short clip also marks the first time either side has released a video from the infighting.
The brief video details ISGS fighters using mobilized infantry tactics with motorcycles, including motorcycles mounted with heavy machine guns. The jihadists are then seen pursuing al Qaeda’s men across the nearby shrubland before several corpses are shown.
More photos were then released through the Islamic State’s central media apparatus that also detailed several dead al Qaeda fighters, though a significantly lesser amount than what the Islamic State has claimed.
Additionally, Al-Naba reports three final clashes with al Qaeda’s men in the Mali-Burkina Faso borderlands between Aug. 20 and Aug. 22.
The Islamic State’s chronology of recent events paints the group as having dealt a heavy blow to al Qaeda’s ranks. According to the Islamic State, these clashes have killed 500 members of JNIM since earlier this year.
While this number may be an exaggeration, it is clear that hundreds of jihadists on both sides have been killed in the infighting. As a result, Al-Naba alleges that this has caused JNIM to begin “compulsory conscription” of men living under its control or influence.
The newsletter further argues that JNIM has had to field new fighting groups in the areas near the borders between Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast, the Mali and Burkina Faso border area, and in central Mali. Though the Islamic State says, “this has not changed the equation on the ground.”
Much of this version of events, however, has been disputed by al Qaeda’s men online. While official al Qaeda propaganda outlets have been silent regarding the clashes, more unofficial al Qaeda social media channels have often chimed in on the events.
Earlier this week, al Qaeda’s Thabat News Agency, which operates similar to Islamic State’s Amaq News, released a statement alleging that over the last month JNIM drove ISGS fighters from a series of villages in Mali’s Gao region.
According to Thabat, JNIM kicked ISGS out of 13 villages along the Niger River from Bourem in northern Gao to Ouattagouna near the borders with Niger.
Though specific details in these claims remain unclear, JNIM has indeed been able to push ISGS out of other areas of northern Mali. And clashes between the two in the Gao Region have been reported in the past.
Stemming from a series of local and international factors, the two jihadist heavyweights, formerly cooperative in the Sahel, have been clashing in the region since last summer.
This conflict expanded rapidly earlier this year after both sides began a propaganda battle and internal disagreements spilled over into intense clashes. While JNIM is believed to have the upper hand, ISGS has been able to deal significant casualties within JNIM’s ranks.
Screenshots from the Islamic State’s video of the Aug. 11 clash with JNIM near Talataye, Mali:
Caleb Weiss is a contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Al Qaeda, Arab Movement of Azawad, Burkina Faso, GATIA, ISGS, Islamic State in Mali, JNIM, maa, Mali, MSA, Niger

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Iranian front groups claim responsibility for recent attacks against Coalition targets in Iraq

From top left: Avenger Brigades, Sariya Qassem al-Jibareen, Zulfiqar Forces, and People of the Cave.
Over the past few days, a surge of assaults against American and Coalition forces inside Iraq have been reported across the country. Four nascent armed factions, all of which are believed to be Iranian-backed, have claimed responsibility. 
On Sept. 13, People of the Cave claimed to have detonated an IED on a transport convoy of vehicles belonging to the American-led coalition in Iraq’s Salahuddin Province.
After the explosion, the group stated, its men briefly engaged in a firefight with Coalition troops. However, it is unclear if the statement was referring to American or Iraqi soldiers. 
While the alleged firefight has not been reported in local media, an IED on an Iraqi logistics convoy near the village of Al-Rayyash was indeed reported. At least one Iraqi driver was injured in the explosion. 
People of the Cave, which originated earlier this year, has previously claimed other strikes against logistics convoys in Iraq. 
On Sept. 14,  two Katyusha rockets were launched against the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. American air-defense systems were able to detect and destroy the incoming rockets before they could impact the Green Zone. 
Not long after, another ascending armed group, Zulfiqar Forces, published a statement and later a video claiming responsibility for the rocket barrage. The statement and video were both released via the group’s Telegram channel. 
“The resistance fighters last night began to remember the martyr Hajj Qasem Soleimani and the martyr Hajj al-Muhandis, and they showered you in the name of the two martyrs with two missiles at the headquarters of the sinister base [U.S. Embassy],” the statement read. 
The video also ended with a reminder that the barrage was in “revenge” for the killing of Soleimani and Muhandis. 
The next day, at least one IED targeted British diplomatic vehicles while they were traveling between Baghdad’s Green Zone and the airport. The convoy was reportedly returning from dropping off a British diplomat at the airport when the attack occurred. 
Later that day, yet another newly-formed group, the Avenger Brigades, claimed responsibility for the assault in a statement released online, alleging that two IEDs were used. 
“Avenger Brigades confirms that it detonated two IEDs targeting convoys of American intelligence officers with their staff in the regional office in security of the American Embassy in a quality operation and the initial news confirms that three American officers were killed,” the statement read. 
Although the statement claimed the group attacked ‘American officers’ and that some were killed, this is not true. While purported photos of the aftermath appear to show heavy damage to the vehicles, no one was reported injured in the blast.
Much like the People of the Cave or Zulfiqar Forces, the Avenger Brigades is likely another Iranian front group inside Iraq. It brands itself within the pro-Iran “Islamic Resistance,” while its media has been shared on similarly branded channels as well as outlets linked to the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). 
And similar to other Iranian proxies in the Middle East, its logo is a carbon copy of the IRGC. This branding is often used to demonstrate a position within Iran’s ‘axis of resistance,” or a network of state and non-state actors opposed to American presence in the region. 
Then on Sept. 16, sirens again sounded inside Baghdad’s Green Zone after a rocket was launched toward the area. Local reports documented that some damage did occur against a building and vehicles inside the zone’s perimeter. This assault has yet to be claimed by any group, however. 
Yesterday, a new group emerged to claim two additional IEDs against logistical convoys contracted by the U.S.-led coalition. Sariya Qassem al-Jibareen, a moniker used in reference to Qassem Soleimani, said that it was responsible for IEDs on convoys near Latifiya, just south of Baghdad, and in the western Baghdad suburb of Abu Ghraib. 
While one IED on a convoy near Latifiya has been reported by local media, no such incident has been confirmed near Abu Ghraib. Another IED was reported near Al-Nile in Babil Governorate, which sits south of Latifiya, but it is unclear if the group is referring to that explosion. 
Sariya Qassem al-Jibareen joins the chorus of other ascending Iranian-backed fronts in Iraq. It’s announcement and claims have been propagated by ‘Islamic Resistance’ channels on social media. Like other groups in this branding, its logo is also a carbon copy of the IRGC. 
Then last night, an IED detonated outside the ‘American Institute for English’ in Najaf, though no casualties were reported. As of the time of publishing, no group has taken responsibility for the blast. However, it has been widely shared and celebrated on channels linked to both the ‘Islamic Resistance in Iraq’ and the IRGC. 
FDD’s Long War Journal spoke with Colonel Wayne Marotto, the official military spokesperson of Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) about this week’s offensives and if there was concern of this recent surge in attacks by Iranian-backed groups.
Colonel Maratto stressed that “there has been an increase in simple low level attacks by Daesh or outlaw groups.” But that “[the Coalition] has not observed any indication of a resurgence.”
Colonel Marotto also stated: “Despite what Daesh and outlaw groups claim, they are not attacking the Coalition. They are attacking Iraqi Security Forces civilian contracted logistics convoys or vehicles. They are attacking ISF sites and Iraqi civilians.” 
While a lot of these assaults have indeed been on Iraqi personnel, these groups have also managed to fire rockets into bases in which U.S. troops are based, as well as into Baghdad’s Green Zone including the U.S. Embassy. UN personnel have also been targeted by IEDs planted by these organizations.
And now with a confirmed IED on the British diplomatic corps, it is clear these attacks have broadened from just “attacking ISF sites and Iraqi civilians.” 
When pressed by FDD’s Long War Journal on this, Col. Marotto again emphasized that “historic attack numbers are down.” While it is true that numbers are in fact down from the height of the Islamic State surge in Iraq from 2014-2017, it is hard to downplay the worrying number of Iranian-backed strikes inside the country since the beginning of the year – especially as two U.S. service members and one UK soldier have so far been killed by these groups. 
And with six confirmed attacks by these groups in the last week alone, three of which on high-profile targets, this is further indicative of a worrying trend brewing in Iraq.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Avenger Brigades, Iran, Iraq, IRGC, Islamic Resistance in Iraq, People of the Cave, Sariya Qassem al-Jibareen, Zulfiqar Forces

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Analysis: Iranian-backed group in Bahrain creates sub-unit to target Israeli interests

Logo of Saraya Wa’ad Allah
Following the recent peace deal signed between Israel and the island Kingdom of Bahrain, Saraya Wa’ad Allah, an Iranian-backed group on the island, has announced its opposition to the deal vowing to target Israeli interests with a new specialized unit.
In a statement released earlier today, Saraya Wa’ad Allah [God’s Promise Companies] became the first Bahraini militant group to officially comment on the recent peace deal.
In the message, the group states that “this false normalization with the Zionist enemy is nothing but an update to the enabling of this cancerous gland on the body of the Ummah [worldwide Islamic community] and the rotten fruit of years of betrayal by Zionist governments.”
Saraya Wa’ad Allah, as well as other Bahraini militia groups, have long considered Bahrain and other Gulf monarchies to be clients of Israel and have called them ‘Zionist’ as a response.
It goes on to add in the statement that “what is being woven between puppet regimes of arrogance with the Zionist enemy is rejected by reason, Sharia law, and the people.” In denouncing the ruling Al-Khalifa family, Saraya Wa’ad Allah says that the peace deal is “nothing but a mirage” and that King Hamad al-Khalifa will soon “taste his pursuit.”
Saraya Wa’ad Allah exclaims that its men, as well as the people of Bahrain, “are passionate about fighting the Zionist enemy” and that it will continue to resist “all of the arrogant policies that are intended to be imposed on our people and our Ummah.”
In this respect, the militant group says it will be creating a new sub-group, the “Martyrs of Jerusalem Company,” to specifically target Israeli interests on the island, and that it has now “opened the door” for recruitment into the specialized unit.
Formed in July 2015, Saraya Wa’ad Allah has been behind some of the deadlier attacks inside Bahrain. For instance, it was responsible for the Nov. 2017 bombing of a bus near Manama that killed one police officer and injured eight others.
Much like other other militias on the island, Saraya Wa’ad Allah brands itself within the so-called “Islamic Resistance,” a pro-Iran moniker. Its media has been circulated by other groups within this branding, as well as Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps channels.
Prior Threats to Israeli Interests
This is not the first time a Bahraini militant group has threatened Israeli interests in Bahrain. Over the last year as Bahraini and Israeli ties grew more transparent, this became a common refrain among some of the groups.
For instance, last spring Saraya Wa’ad Allah itself took credit for the purported cancellation of an Israeli delegation meeting with Bahraini officials on the island. While the meeting did end up taking place in secret, it was initially reported that the event was cancelled due to “security concerns.”
Israeli officials stated at the time that a crude animated video posted online by the group prompted the cancellation. Not long after, Saraya Wa’ad Allah then posted several purported screenshots of threatening messages and emails it claimed were sent to the Israeli delegation.
The threats to Israeli nationals and interests on the island came just two months after another Iranian-backed group in Bahrain, Saraya al-Ashtar, threatened similar attacks.
In Feb. 2019, Saraya al-Ashtar, a US-designated terrorist group, openly threatened attacks against Israeli targets in Bahrain. Speaking in a video, a spokesman for the group denounced the “Khalifa regime’s openness to the Zionists” and added that the “Zionist presence is a legitimate target” on the island.
Other groups, such as Saraya al-Mokhtar, have also long bemoaned Israeli presence in the Gulf.
Many Threats, Not a Lot of Action
Despite the new threats to target Israeli nationals and interests in Bahrain, it remains to be seen how this will materialize. In the last year alone, several militias have promised new attacks. None, however, have actually made good on their promise.
Following Saraya al-Ashtar’s Feb. 2019 statement warning of new attacks, it again threatened a renewed campaign on the island in July 2019 following the state execution of two individuals accused of terrorism.
Around the same time, Saraya Wa’ad Allah also warned of retributive strikes. In a brief video, the group warned of targeted assassinations with photos and general locations of several figures within the Bahraini security apparatus and an ending quote with “blood for blood.”
While in Nov. 2019, Katibat al-Haydariyah, a long dormant militia in Bahrain, reemerged to warn of new attacks.
Even with these warnings, not one of these groups has claimed a new attack inside Bahrain since 2017. According to data compiled by FDD’s Long War Journal, the last claimed attack on the island perpetrated by a militia within the “Islamic Resistance” branding was on Feb. 10, 2019.
That claim, a purported IED in A’ali, was posted online by a previously unknown group, Saraya Tha’ir Allah, just one day after Saraya al-Ashtar’s warning. However, no local reporting confirmed an explosion in that area on that day and it is unclear if Tha’ir Allah is connected to al-Ashtar.
Bahraini security forces have routinely arrested individuals involved in terrorism and have raided numerous arms warehouses and weapons caches on the island over the years.
These moves have drastically impacted the overall effectiveness of the militias operating in Bahrain, as claimed terrorist attacks on the island have fallen exponentially since 2017 according to FDD’s Long War Journal‘s data.
Though heavy-handed tactics and collective punishment employed by the security forces have often times perpetuated the cycle of violence and have played into Iran’s strategy in fomenting insurgency on the island.
Despite the decline in overall success rates for attacks in Bahrain, it is possible this could change in the future. In the wake of the peace deal between Bahrain and Israel, it is possible that Iranian-backed groups may make more of a concerted effort to conduct successful attacks on the island as this could constitute a renewed focus for the outfits.
And given Iran’s history of smuggling weapons and explosives into Bahrain, these efforts may also be ramped up to facilitate renewed campaigns on the island or specific attacks on Israeli interests.
Caleb Weiss is a contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: bahrain, Iran, IRGC, Israel, Saraya al Ashtar, Saraya Waad Allah

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IRGC-led Afghan group holds first ‘international conference’ in Iran

The Afghan paramilitary group Fatemiyoun Division, which answers to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), held its first “international conference,” an ideological indoctrination gathering, on Aug. 13 at the Imam Reza shrine in Mashhad, Iran.
The Fatemiyoun’s Media Center has released more details and content about the event over the last several weeks, shedding light on the event that also revealed the blurred-out face of its chief commander for the first time.
The Fatemiyoun organized the gathering with the blessing of the Reza Holy Precinct, a multi-billion dollar foundation that oversees the shrine and answers to the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The conference reflected several trends in the Fatemiyoun’s evolution. It represented Fatemiyoun’s effort to solidify a sense of community among veterans and families of fighters who reside in Iran, efforts to enhance ties with other IRGC-backed elements, and efforts to present itself to the Islamic Republic support base as a worthy group in the mold of Lebanese Hezbollah.
The conference also reflected the evolution of the group’s media arm, which produced a number of professional-looking productions, such as montage videos and infographics about the event, and deployed a “journalist” to interview individuals there. A number of Iranian outlets and newspapers also reported on the event.
The conference came amid questions and speculation about the group’s direction following a draw down in late 2017 after the end of a major offensive in eastern Syria against the Islamic State. The Fatemiyoun continue to deploy to and publicize its presence Syria.
In the conference, the Fatemiyoun and other IRGC-backed groups reiterated the goals of destroying Israel and avenging the death of Qods Force chief Qasem Soleimani, both of which are the ideological goals of the IRGC and the Islamic Republic. These ideals bind the IRGC-backed network into an offensive and aggressive vision – but the realistic ability to fulfill those goals is another matter.
Unnamed commander of the Fatemiyoun Division speaking with a Fatemiyoun journalist. The emblem of the group is displayed on the microphone.
For the first time, the Fatemiyoun displayed its chief commander, though his face was blurred and name was not provided for security reasons. The unnamed commander told a Fatemiyoun Media Center reporter that “all of our effort must be spent on forcing the U.S to leave the region,” which would be the “great revenge” for the U.S. killing Soleimani. It is unclear when he was appointed to this post.
Senior Fatemiyoun commander “Seyyed Elias” addressed the conference and told the Media Center that the conference’s goals were to praise families of martyrs and “create regular conference with tangible result [involving] other countries that are active in the Resistance front,” with the final goals of destroying Israel and expelling the US from the region.
Om-olbanin Hosseini, the wife of deceased Fatemiyoun co-founder and former chief Alireza Tavassoli (“Abu Hamed”), reiterated these goals in a separate interview. Killed in 2015, Tavassoli is the Fatemiyoun’s most recognizable figure, and since his death, Om-olbanin has carried on his legacy and name, giving interviews and appearing in events like the conference.
Fatemiyoun commander “Seyyed Elias”
IRGC-backed paramilitary group representatives and figures addressed the conference through recorded video messages, in which the figures praised the Fatemiyoun, and reiterated their ideological goals of destroying Israel and expelling the U.S. from the region.
Lebanese Hezbollah cultural deputy Hojjat ol-Eslam Akram Barakat said that “anytime I look at the faces of you Fatemyoun mujaheds, I remember the beautiful face of commander martyr Soleimani.”
Iraqi Harakat al-Nujaba spokesman Nisr al-Shimri told the conference that “American forces witness parts of ‘hard revenge’ by your brothers in the Iraqi resistance every day.” He was referring to – and exaggerating – claims of attacks against logistical convoys against Iraqi contractors for the U.S. and related harassment of U.S. forces in Iraq.
Bahrain Islamic Movement leader Sheikh Isa Qasim declared that “Fatemiyoun mujahids have humiliated the Zionist enemy and American pride.”
A Palestinian Islamic Jihad official sent a recorded message in praise of the Fatemiyoun, as well. Iranian cleric Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem-Shirazi, who is an ally of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, also sent a letter in prase of the Afghan group that was read out loud.
Hassan Mughniyeh, the son of prominent Hezbollah commander Emad, was scheduled to speak at the event, but reportedly did not make an appearance.
Advertisement poster for the event, and on top says “subjects are to praise the martyrs of the Fatemiyoun Division, liberation of Jerusalem as the final goal of the Fatemiyoun, and America’s exit from the region.” The conference coincides with Resistance Day in Iran, which is further meant to tie the Fatemiyoun with the IRGC “resistance” project in the region. Displayed speakers are Bahraini cleric Sheikh Isa Qasim and Harakat al-Nujaba official Nisr al Shimri. Poster also advertises two religious singers, known as maddah, who play important roles in retelling the stories of Shiite saints and fallen fighters. Hassan Mughniyeh, son of prominent Hezbollah commander Emad, is “the special guest” of the event, though he did not make an appearance, according to the Fatemiyoun. Featured speakers also include Hezbollah officials, Palestinian “movements” officials, and Fatemiyoun commanders. The event also unveils a book about the Fatemiyoun.
A flag that says “Shrine defender Fatemiyoun Warriors Committee,” which functions as a veterans association group.
A recorded video message by Bahraini Islamic Movement leader Sheikh Isa Qasim.
Example of an infographic produced by the Fatemiyoun Media Center. This one highlights portions of Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem-Shirazi’s video message and his praise of the Fatemiyoun.

Iraqi Harakat al-Nujaba spokesman Nisr al Shimri, in a video message, says that Nujaba and Fatemiyoun would fight alongside each other until establishment of the Mahdi government, destruction of Israel, and expulsion of US forces from the region. pic.twitter.com/CrCCNnpQ4S
— Amir Toumaj (@AmirToumaj) August 15, 2020

Amir Toumaj is a independent analyst and contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Harakat al Nujaba, hezbollah, IRGC, IRGC-QF

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Generation Jihad Ep. 26 – Zawahiri’s Bizarre 9/11 Anniversary Message

Hosts Tom Joscelyn and Bill Roggio discuss al Qaeda’s weak media output on the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 hijackings. Despite this shortcoming, the group remains resilient. And the guys explain why an op-ed by the new director of the National Counterterrorism Center misses the mark. 

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Take a look around the globe today and you’ll see jihadists fighting everywhere from West Africa to Southeast Asia. They aren’t the dominant force in all of those areas, or even most of them. But jihadism has mushroomed into a worldwide movement, with al-Qaeda, the Taliban, ISIS and other groups waging guerrilla warfare and launching terrorist attacks on a regular basis.
Each week Generation Jihad brings you a new story focusing on jihadism around the globe. These stories will focus not only on Sunni jihadism, but also Shiite extremist groups. We will also host guests who can provide their own unique perspectives on current events.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal. Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: 9/11 anniversary, Al Qaeda, Ayman al Zawahiri, counter terrorism

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Zawahiri asserts al Qaeda’s independence in new message

On the 19th anniversary of the 9/11 hijackings, Al Qaeda has released a lengthy screed from Ayman al Zawahiri. In last year’s anniversary message, Zawahiri attempted to rebuke Islamic critics of al Qaeda’s deadliest day. This year, Zawahiri’s ire is directed at another target: Al Jazeera. In particular, the al Qaeda emir critiques a feature produced by the television network, claiming it is propaganda that is intended to undermine the mujahideen’s cause.It is a curious subject to make the centerpiece of a message released on this day, but the video’s release was likely timed to coincide with the normalization of relations between Israel and the Kingdom of Bahrain. The video, which was produced by As Sahab, al Qaeda’s longtime media arm, is titled “Deal of the Century or the Crusade of the Century.”
Much of the production is aimed at an Al Jazeera video released in 2019. It focused on the story of Muhammad Saleh Ali Muhammad, an alleged former al Qaeda member who claimed that the monarchy in Bahrain hired the jihadists to hunt down members of the Shiite opposition. Zawahiri bristles at this claim, arguing that Muhammad Saleh was never in al-Qaeda’s ranks and that his story doesn’t add up.
One of Zawahiri’s key arguments is that Muhammad Saleh’s testimony is inconsistent with al Qaeda’s “General Guidelines for Jihad,” which were posted online in 2013. The text of those guidelines is displayed onscreen, as well as in the As Sahab transcripts (in both English and Arabic) that accompany the video message.
“It is not hidden from the brothers that our work in this stage has two aspects: the first military and the second propagational,” the 2013 guidelines read. The guidelines make it clear that al Qaeda views both the U.S. and various local rulers throughout the Muslim-majority world as its enemies. The video transcript adds: “The military work targets firstly the head of international disbelief, America and its ally Israel. Secondly, it targets their local allies who rule over our lands.”
The guidelines further stipulated that although al Qaeda prefers to attack “the head of international disbelief,” Muslims still have the right to wage jihad against any regimes or parties “who oppress them.” And while al Qaeda has a “policy of non-engagement militarily with the local regimes,” this does not apply to the instances in which these same governments are deemed proxies of American forces, such as in Afghanistan, the Arabian Peninsula or Somalia. The mujahideen also have the right to wage jihad against governments that don’t accept their existence, such as “in the Islamic Maghreb, Syria, and Iraq.” Thus, al Qaeda is not myopically focused on striking the West, but instead has developed a wide target list.  
Given that America’s “local allies” are al Qaeda’s enemies, Zawahiri reasons, “it is clear that we consider the apostate traitor, the King of Bahrain, as one of our enemies.” The al Qaeda leader then asks: “How can this enmity be reconciled with Muhammad Saleh Ali Muhammad’s keenness to please the King, his insistence that his work is for the country’s benefit- a country controlled totally by the King… that he visited the King after his return and the King reassured him?”
Zawahiri claims that Saleh’s story contradicts not only the policies set forth in al Qaeda’s 2013 guidelines, but also Osama bin Laden’s various directives, as well those specified in other publications, such as the group’s “Document for the Support of Islam.”
Criticizes Abu Bakr al Baghdadi
The al Qaeda leader also uses the guidelines to blast Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, who headed the Islamic State until his death in an American raid last year. In 2013 and 2014, Baghdadi and his men defied Zawahiri’s authority and declared their own caliphate, turning their guns on their former jihadist comrades.
Zawahiri says that the 2013 guidelines are “a public document that was released after consultation with the local branches of al Qaeda.” The guidelines were “sent a year before its public release to Ibrahim al Badri [Baghdadi].”
“He, however, did not comment on it,” Zawahiri says. “When it [the guidelines document] was released, he still did not comment.” It was only after al Qaeda’s general command issued decisions “against him and he was expelled from the Organization [meaning al Qaeda]” that “he mobilized his deceitful media machine (to raise objections).” Zawahiri adds: “And can there be any cure for those who are addicted to lies!”
Zawahiri previously raised this same issue in correspondence with the Islamic State that was posted online by al Qaeda supporters. In brief, Zawahiri is saying that Baghdadi and the Islamic State of Iraq (as it was previously known) were given the opportunity to comment on or object to al Qaeda’s general guidelines, just like all other regional al Qaeda branches. But Baghdadi and his men did not object to the document’s contents until after they decided to become al Qaeda’s rivals. Indeed the Islamic State regularly objects to the guidelines and other al Qaeda policies on doctrinal grounds, seeking to sow further discontent with Zawahiri’s ways.
Zawahiri claims Jundallah has no links to al Qaeda
The elderly al Qaeda emir chastises Al Jazeera for also attempting to link Jundullah, a Baluchi group, to his organization. “Al Qaeda, as per Al Jazeera’s spin, is linked to Jundullah,” Zawahiri sneers. Zawahiri claims that Al Jazeera traced Jundallah’s ties through Abu Hafs al Baluchi, “who is in turn linked to the Bahraini Intelligence” and therefore “al Qaeda is linked to the Bahraini Intelligence.” This is “slander” and an example of “America’s war of dirty propaganda,” Zawahiri argues.
“The spokesman of Jundullah said in a press interview that his group has no links with the Taliban or al Qaeda and claimed that these accusations were leveled by the Iranian Interior Ministry,” Zawahiri says. “Hence, Al Jazeera’s attempts to link al Qaeda with Jundullah are in line with the media policy of the Iranian Interior Ministry.” But “Abu Hafs al Balochi did not say in his recording that he was a member of Jundullah.”
Instead, according to Zawahiri, when Abu Hafs decided “to fight the Iranian government” he “created his own organization, Ansarullah, which later joined Jama’at al Furqan.” This “group renamed itself as Ansar al Furqan.” (Al Qaeda-linked online channels have promoted Ansar al Furqan.)
Disputes claim that Abu Zubaydah was tied to three Saudi royals
“As for the third illusion which Al Jazeera tried to sell, it concerns the former American Intelligence official who claimed that he found a pocket diary with Abu Zubaydah containing the telephone numbers of three princes in the Saudi royal family,” Zawahiri says. Zubaydah was captured in early 2002 and subjected to harsh interrogation methods, some of which amounted to torture. Some have claimed that Zubaydah wasn’t really a part of al Qaeda, but his dossier is filled with details connecting him to al Qaeda’s upper echelon. And Zubaydah declared his fealty to Osama bin Laden in a video he produced.
Zawahiri points to the harsh treatment Zubaydah was subjected to while in American custody and repeatedly asks Allah to “hasten his release.” Zawahiri argues that Abu Zubaydah’s alleged ties to the Saudi royals are not mentioned in the 9/11 Commission’s final report, despite the fact that Zubaydah is “mentioned in the report 50 times” and he is referenced on two other occasions in the report by one of his aliases. Zubaydah’s alleged connection to the Saudi royals appeared in a book written by a former CIA officer, John Kiriakou. As Sahab features excerpts from Kiriakou’s book in the newly released video, arguing that he isn’t a credible source and that he has offered contradictory versions of the story.
Al Qaeda doesn’t work for any foreign governments, Zawahiri stresses
Zawahiri says that all of these stories can be traced to the “criminal America, the petro-robber, the occupier of our lands, the creator of Israel, the instigator behind the Judaization of Jerusalem who spreads his forces in our lands and his naval fleets in our seas…who implants treacherous toadies to rule over us.” He claims that Al Jazeera has participated in “America’s dirty propaganda war” by airing the above claims, which portray the mujahideen in a negative light.
He is especially angry that al Qaeda “has been unjustly accused” by various intelligence agencies of being a client for patron states. “They accuse us of being agents of America, Israel, Iran, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Russia, and Egypt… and so on,” Zawahiri claims.
Al Qaeda is accused of being dishonorable in other ways as well, he laments. But if any viewers want “to judge us,” then they “should see the message of al Qaeda, which is the most precious thing we possess.” Zawahiri claims that the “reception and acceptance of this message by the Ummah [worldwide community of Muslims] is our real victory.”
Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Al Qaeda, Ayman al Zawahiri

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Taliban secured release of wife of senior AQIS leader

The wife of Asim Umar, a senior leader of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent who was killed during a raid in a Taliban stronghold last fall, was among the 5,000 prisoners released by the Afghan government.
The Taliban demanded and secured her released.
Umar’s wife, who was not named, and two other foreign women who were also released, are “very important,” a Taliban source told Afghan Islamic Press, a news agency sympathetic to the Taliban and maintains close connections with Taliban commanders.
The three women were among 200 prisoners freed by the Afghan government, Afghan Islamic Press reported on Sept. 2. Two of the women who were released were Bangladeshi and one was Pakistani.
Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) reported that Umar’s wife was among six Pakistani women captured during the Sept. 23, 2019 raid in the district of Musa Qala in Helmand province. Musa Qala is a known stronghold for the Taliban. Several Taliban commanders were killed alongside Umar and other AQIS commanders. Among those killed were Umar’s courier to Al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri; the AQIS chief for Helmand and an ‘explosives expert;’ the deputy AQIS leader for Helmand; and the Taliban’s military commander for the neighboring Naw Zad district.
The NDS initially identified Umar as the emir of AQIS, however there is evidence that Usama Mahmood, his former spokesman, is now the leader of the Al Qaeda branch. Mahmood has been identified as the “commander” of AQIS. [See LWJ reports, Senior al Qaeda official praises Taliban’s ‘victory’ in Afghanistan and Analysis: Al Qaeda eulogizes Zakir Musa, as his successor is named.]
Regardless, Umar was clearly in the top echelon of AQIS as he retained a courier to communicate directly with Zawahiri, and may have held a senior position within Al Qaeda’s general command.
The Taliban’s demand of the release of Umar’s wife is curious, as the group maintains that Al Qaeda does not have a presence in Afghanistan. In fact, the Taliban denies that any foreigners are fighting in Afghanistan.
The Taliban is of course lying about the presence of Al Qaeda and foreign fighters in Afghanistan. It does so because it wants the U.S to leave Afghanistan, and as part of the U.S.-Taliban withdrawal deal, the Taliban cannot host Al Qaeda and other foreign terror groups.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Afghanistan, Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, aqis, Taliban, Taliban-AQIS

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Zulfiqar Forces claim attack on U.S. Embassy in Iraq

Graphic released by Zulfiqar Forces alongside its video claiming recent rocket fire directed at the US Embassy in Baghdad.
The nascent Zulfiqar Forces, part of the Iranian-backed ‘Islamic Resistance in Iraq,’ recently published a video claiming responsibility for an Aug. 27 rocket attack against the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. 
The U.S. military tweeted that the rockets did not hit the Embassy, nor did reach any targets inside the heavily fortified Green Zone. 
In a short statement published alongside a video by the group on Sept. 6 on its Telegram channel, Zulfiqar Forces said the operation – dubbed “Revenge of the Martyrs” – was in response to the killing of Islamic Resistance leaders by American forces.
“We broadcast for you the filming of the ‘Revenge of the Martyrs’ carried out by the Mujahideen of the Zulfiqar Forces in revenge for the blood of the martyred leaders, against the American occupation forces, which targeted the base of evil in the American embassy,” the statement said. 
The video showed masked men inspecting and preparing several Katyusha rockets for launch. After several moments, the masked men appeared to launch them before the video abruptly ended. 
Although at least one rocket was fired towards the U.S. embassy that day, the then-Inherent Resolve Spokesperson Col. Myles B. Caggins III said there was no damage done.
“The military Coalition confirms small rockets impacted near Baghdad’s International Zone, Aug. 27 at 11:58 p.m. No Coalition casualties or damage to facilities,” Caggins’ statement read. 
The video was also a markedly higher quality production than videos from other newly founded groups within the ‘Islamic Resistance in Iraq’ branding.
However, it is unclear if this noticeable improvement reflects a more skilled media department – or if technical expertise was provided to the group by Iran and its network inside Iraq. 
Zulfiqar Brigades first emerged in June 2020 when it claimed to hack a security system used by American troops at Camp Taji, north of Baghdad. Prior to this recent statement, it had not previously claimed a physical attack against American personnel. 
Despite the appearance of being a new formation, the Zulfiqar Forces are likely another name for the more than half-dozen front groups of other, more established Iranian proxies in Iraq.
Moreover, the group’s logo – a variation of the image of a hand clutching an assault rifle – resembles that of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its various proxies across the Middle East, which clearly signifies its position within Iran’s ‘axis of resistance.’
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Iran, IRGC, Quwat Zulfiqar, Zulfiqar Forces

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DOJ charges American ‘Boogaloo Bois’ with attempting to provide material support to Hamas

Michael Robert Solomon and Benjamin Ryan Teeter arrested Sept. 3
The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Friday that ‘Boogaloo Bois’ members Michael Robert Solomon and Benjamin Ryan Teeter conspired to provide material support to Hamas, a U.S. State Department designated Foreign Terrorist Organization.
The ‘Boogaloo Bois‘ is a loosely organized movement that aspires to bring about a second civil war by adopting an anti-U.S. government stance. The group gained prominence when heavily armed members of the movement began to attend protests that emerged in the wake of the May 25 killing of George Floyd.
In May 2020, the FBI initiated an investigation after a witness who interacted with the pair alleged Solomon carried firearms openly in a Minneapolis neighborhood. The witness stated Solomon and Teeter were in possession of a large quantity of firearms and discussed committing acts of violence against police officers to advance the efforts of the ‘Boogaloo Bois’ movement.
In June, the FBI received information from a confidential source who Solomon and Teeter believed was a member of Hamas. In audio recordings, the pair conveyed their support for Hamas’ anti-U.S. government view – which closely aligned with the view of their own movement.
According to the DOJ publication, the pair communicated the idea of becoming “mercenaries” for Hamas as a way to raise funds for the ‘Booga Bois’ movement, which included funding for recruitment and the purchase of land for a training compound.
After the DOJ publication, Hamas issued a press release denying links to the ‘Boogaloo Bois’ movement.
“Hamas condemns the U.S. administration’s attempt to link the movement with the “Boogaloo Bois” group, which the movement denies knowledge of, or any of its members,” the Hamas statement read.
It’s unlikely Hamas or it’s military wing, al-Qassam Brigades, had much of anything to do with the ‘Boogaloo Bois’ movement. However, it is undoubtedly cause for concern that homegrown extremist movements will attempt to link itself with Islamic militant groups in an attempt to carry out an attack against American citizens and government institutions.
Joe Truzman is a contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Boogaloo Bois, DOJ, Hamas

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Generation Jihad Ep. 25 – Another Coup in Mali

Hosts Tom Joscelyn and Bill Roggio are joined by Caleb Weiss, a longtime contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal. They discuss the recent coup in Mali and what it will mean for ISIS and al Qaeda.

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Take a look around the globe today and you’ll see jihadists fighting everywhere from West Africa to Southeast Asia. They aren’t the dominant force in all of those areas, or even most of them. But jihadism has mushroomed into a worldwide movement, with al-Qaeda, the Taliban, ISIS and other groups waging guerrilla warfare and launching terrorist attacks on a regular basis.
Each week Generation Jihad brings you a new story focusing on jihadism around the globe. These stories will focus not only on Sunni jihadism, but also Shiite extremist groups. We will also host guests who can provide their own unique perspectives on current events.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal. Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Al Qaeda in West Africa, Al-Qaeda in Mali, Algeria, Islamic State in Mali, JNIM, Mali, Nigeria

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US forces targeted by Shabaab suicide bombing

Members of Somalia’s US-trained Danab special forces unit, which was also targeted today alongside US troops outside of Kismayo.
One US service member was wounded in a suicide assault launched by al-Qaeda’s Shabaab outside a military base in southern Somalia today. Additionally, at least two Somali special forces personnel were killed in the blast.
US military officials inside Africa Command (AFRICOM) have confirmed that American forces were alongside Somali special forces during an “advise, assist and accompany mission” outside of the southern city of Kismayo when Shabaab launched its suicide car bomb. The jihadist group also reportedly fired mortars into the fray.
AFRICOM officials have stated that one US soldier was wounded in the bombing, but is in stable condition. In its own statement, the Somali government also confirmed that two of its special forces soldiers, attached to the US-trained Danab unit, were killed. Three other Somali soldiers were also wounded.
The Danab Brigade is a US funded and organized special forces brigade that often operates alongside US special forces soldiers on the ground. The US has built up the brigade as part of its widening role to combat Shabaab.
The jihadist group routinely claims attacks against Danab’s units, which tracks with the brigade’s role in Somali-government offensives in the country.
According to data compiled by FDD’s Long War Journal, Shabaab’s bombing today means the group has conducted at least 23 suicide bombings inside Somalia since the beginning of the year. This includes two additional attempts outside of Kismayo in March.
Today’s suicide bombing comes in the wake of a series of successive Somali victories in the country’s south. On Sept. 2, Kenyan and Somali troops beat back a large Shabaab attack on the town of Afmadow in Lower Juba. Three days later, Somali forces recaptured Jana Abdalle, the same town in which today’s attack occurred, in the Lower Juba region.
While earlier today, Somali forces reportedly captured dozens of Shabaab fighters in a raid on Leego town in the southern Bay region. Additionally, two senior Shabaab commanders were killed in Middle Juba.
Shabaab often claims clashes with US troops inside Somalia. It most recently reported assaulting the joint US-Somali base at Bar Sanguuni outside of Kismayo on Aug. 29. US officials, however, did not confirm that incident.
But on Aug. 24, Shabaab said it used two improvised explosive devices during an ambush of American and Somali forces near Dar es-Salaam in the Lower Juba region.
AFRICOM did later confirm that incident while adding that one drone strike was launched in defense of its troops on the ground. With that strike, the US military has now launched 46 drone strikes in Somalia this year.
The propaganda battle
Today’s attack also set off a war of words online between the jihadist group and American officials. Shortly after the bombing, Shabaab claimed credit for the explosion through its Shahada News Agency. In its statement, the al-Qaeda branch inflates the casualty numbers by reporting that it “killed 4 American soldiers and wounded 3 others.”
It also claimed it killed 16 Somali forces and wounded 12 others, while destroying three American vehicles.
Speaking to Military Times, AFRICOM spokesman Col. Christopher Karns refuted Shabaab’s statement. “False claims consistently continue to be part of al-Shabab’s playbook as they seek to weaponize information and employ traditional tools of the tradecraft of terror, to include truck, car, and roadside bombs,” Karns said.
Shabaab then followed up with a longer, English-language statement from its military wing.
“Through deceptions, distortions, and outright fabrications, United States Africa Command has resorted to an incoherently coordinated campaign of disinformation, denial and deception in order to manipulate perceptions, sway public opinion, and neutralize the international opposition and controversy surrounding their barbaric campaign of drone strikes,” the statement reads.
It goes on to accuse AFRICOM of “deliberately attempting to hide the deaths of US soldiers in today’s attack.” Shabaab then argues that America should focus on its own domestic issues such as systemic racism and the global COVID-19 pandemic.
In attempting to justify its own barbaric attacks in East Africa, Shabaab tries to paint its fight in a purely defensive nature. For instance, it states that America “in its intrinsic hatred of Islam sees it fit to wage wars in Muslim countries.”
In Shabaab’s argument, this causes the US to “murder the Muslims of Somalia with impunity.” As a result, the jihadist group alleges that it must fight and kill both Americans and its allies in Somalia – the Somali government and military – in order to “restore the dignity of the Ummah [worldwide Islamic community].”
Even though Somalia’s civilians are the biggest victims of Shabaab’s violence, the group continues to try to posit itself as a protector of Somalia’s Muslims. In this regard, the jihadist group vows that it will “concentrate military operations on the American crusaders in order to defend their religion, land, and people from all forms of invaders and apostate allies.”
The statement then ends with a vague warning that “the Muslim land of Somalia will…forever remain a fortress of Islam, a sanctuary for every Muslim, and a graveyard of every invading crusader.”
Shabaab’s statement today continues the longstanding theme in both al-Qaeda’s and its own propaganda. For instance, following the raid on a US base in Kenya earlier this year, Shabaab spokesman Ali Mohamud Rage repeated similar mantras.
“For nearly half a century, the United States of America has been engaged in a brazen total war against Islam across the globe,” Rage said at the time, adding that the U.S. is conducting “a relentless self-declared crusade against Islam.”
Caleb Weiss is a contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: AFRICOM, Al Qaeda East Africa, Shabaab, Somalia

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Anas Haqqani extols virtues of his ‘Legendary Father’ on Taliban’s official website

Image accompanying Anas Haqqani’s (bottom left) paean to his father, Jalaluddin (center).
Anas Haqqani, the youngest and one of the many sons of Jalaluddin Haqqani, praised his father’s commitment to fighting the Soviet Union and the United States over the past four decades. While the Taliban has previously claimed Anas had no links to the group, the Afghan government has described him as a propagandist and ambassador for the Taliban.The Taliban released Anas’ statement, titled “My Legendary Father,” on its official website, Voice of Jihad on Sept. 3 [PDF]. Jalaluddin Haqqani was one of the most influential and respected Taliban leaders before his death in 2018. The Taliban routinely release statements that praise Jalaluddin’s commitment to the jihad.
The fact that Anas allowed the Taliban to publish his statement at Voice of Jihad is a clear indication that he is more than just an innocent student, as the Taliban has claimed.
The lengthy letter includes Anas’ stories about his imprisonment and interaction with Afghan interrogators. He says he met his uncle, Haji Mali Khan, and Hafiz Rasheed while in prison.
Haji Mali Khan has been described by the U.S. military as “one of the highest ranking members of the Haqqani Network and a revered elder of the Haqqani clan,” who supported suicide attacks, had close ties to Al Qaeda, and served as an “emissary” to the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan.
Rasheed (also known as Qari Abdul Rasheed Omari) was captured along with Anas Haqqani in Oct. 2014 while traveling in the Persian Gulf. At the time of his capture, Rasheed served as the Taliban’s military commander for southeastern Afghanistan. Rasheed is the brother of Mohammad Nabi Omari, a senior Taliban official who was held at Guantanamo from late 2002 until May 2014, when he, along with four other Taliban commanders held in US custody, were exchanged for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl as part of the Taliban 5. 
Khan, Rasheed, and Anas were released from Afghan custody in Nov. 2019 in exchange for American University of Afghanistan professors Kevin King and Timothy Weeks. The two professors were kidnapped by the Haqqani Network in Kabul in Aug. 2016. Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani said that it had to “pay this bitter price” to secure the release of King and Weeks.
Anas also claims that an Afghan interrogator cowered in fear after learning Anas was a son of Jalaluddin Haqqani. Anas recounts a story that was purportedly told by his father, which claims that immediately after 9/11 and before the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, U.S. officials attempted to coax Jalaluddin to abandon the Taliban and lead an Afghan government. Jalaluddin refused, saying he would not “sell his religion and people to lead the country.”
The Taliban tipped its hand about Anas and his importance to the group four years ago, when it threatened that “blood will be spilled” if Anas was executed. Anas’ paean to his father merely confirms that he holds an important position in the Taliban.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Anas Haqqani, Haqqani Network, Taliban

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New group claims recent attacks in Iraq

Guardians of the Blood, a purported new militant group claiming to be a part of the so-called Islamic Resistance in Iraq recently published a statement and video claiming responsibility for two Aug. 24 attacks allegedly against a ‘CIA security convoy’ and an ‘American convoy.’“The heroic mujahideen on the evening of Monday 08/24/2020 unleashed their anger and fire for their revenge on an American military convoy retreating from Camp Taji towards Ain al-Assad base,” Guardians of the Blood said in the statement.
The video, posted on Aug. 30, showed a convoy of large trucks traveling on a busy road. After a few moments, an explosion occurred beside one of the vehicles. The scene then repeated itself before ending.
Additionally, the group said its men were responsible for targeting a “vehicle belonging to American intelligence” between Erbil and Mosul. 
Although the group claimed it targeted an American intelligence convoy, reports from local media stated it was a United Nations World Health Organization vehicle that was targeted, resulting in one injury.
In recent months, Iraqi groups have claimed several attacks against ‘American convoys,’ but some of those claims have not been entirely accurate.
FDD’s Long War Journal spoke with Colonel Myles B. Caggins III, the official military spokesperson for Operation Inherent Resolve. Colonel Caggins stated the claims of ‘American convoys’ by Iraqi militants groups are in fact “Iraqi contracted logistics convoys driven by Iraqi drivers in Iraqi trucks that haul US/Coalition equipment on flatbed and cargo trucks.”
By claiming an attack against an ‘American convoy’, these groups are attempting to boost their claim of resisting US troops inside Iraq. But in fact, these groups are attacking Iraqi citizens contracted to move American or Coalition equipment throughout the country.
This tactic also allows Iran and its allies the ability to target American or Coalition equipment in a manner that does not elicit any significant responses or counter-attacks from the US military. 
Additionally, when asked if the claim of an attack on an ‘American convoy’ by the group was true, Caggins said: “A few days ago one of these convoys [Iraqi logistics] was attacked causing minor damage. The truck fixed a tire and the convoy continued.”
Despite the appearance of being a new formation, Guardians of the Blood is likely another of the more than half-dozen front groups for other, more established Iranian proxies in Iraq.
Moreover, the group’s logo – of a hand clutching an assault rifle – resembles that of the IRGC and other proxies across the Middle East, which demonstrates its position within Iran’s ‘axis of resistance.’
The IRGC and its network have a long history of utilizing front names to claim more sensitive attacks – especially in Iraq. The recent claims are another instance that fits a long pattern of behavior.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: hezbollah, Iran, Iraq, Islamic Resistance in Iraq, Operation Inherent Resolve

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Generation Jihad Ep. 24 – America Remains in Iraq

Despite decrying America’s role in “endless wars,” President Trump recently defended the role of a small U.S. force in the country. Hosts Tom Joscelyn and Bill Roggio discuss this apparent contradiction, as well as current events in Afghanistan and Somalia.

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Take a look around the globe today and you’ll see jihadists fighting everywhere from West Africa to Southeast Asia. They aren’t the dominant force in all of those areas, or even most of them. But jihadism has mushroomed into a worldwide movement, with al-Qaeda, the Taliban, ISIS and other groups waging guerrilla warfare and launching terrorist attacks on a regular basis.
Each week Generation Jihad brings you a new story focusing on jihadism around the globe. These stories will focus not only on Sunni jihadism, but also Shiite extremist groups. We will also host guests who can provide their own unique perspectives on current events.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal. Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Al Qaeda suicide attacks in Damascus, counter terrorism, Endless Jihad, Endless Wars, Iraq, Shabaab, Shabaab-al Qaeda, Taliban

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IDF responds to Hezbollah after troops reportedly come under fire

Flares fired by IDF artillery positions at Lebanon-Israel border. Credit: Yameis
Soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) operating near the Lebanon-Israel border Tuesday night reportedly came under small arms fire by Hezbollah, prompting a retaliation by Israel’s military.“IDF troops were fired upon from Lebanon’s territory as they were conducting routine operations in area. No IDF wounded or casualties. IDF responded with dozens of illumination and smoke rounds. In response to gunfire, Israeli helicopters and aircraft targeted Hezbollah positions. The IDF attacked Hezbollah observation posts on the Lebanon-Israel border,” the IDF tweeted.
Tuesday night’s attack came amid a series of retaliatory attempts for the killing of Hezbollah fighter Ali Mohsen in a July IDF airstrike at Damascus International Airport.
In a post-action report, the IDF published an image which illustrated the area where the attack originated. Most notably, it highlighted the attack occurred between two United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) posts.
According to a UNIFIL report, its forces observed flares launched over Meis al-Jabal, Hula and Kafr Killa. UNIFIL’s radars also detected IDF mortars and artillery shells, most of them smoke, including heavy drone activity.
Additionally, local reports claimed the IDF fired phosphorous rounds and an artillery shell in and around the village of Hula.
In response to the event, Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah acknowledged the incident but deferred discussing the matter until a later time.
“What happened in southern Lebanon yesterday is an important and sensitive matter for us, but I will not comment on it now and I will leave that for a later time,” Nasrallah stated.
It should be noted that if the attack originated between two UNFIL posts, it brings into question UNIFIL’s ability to comply with its mandate which includes ensuring its area of operations along the blue-line is not utilized for hostile activities of any kind.
All of Hezbollah’s attempts to exact revenge have been thwarted and despite the turmoil caused by the Beirut blast, Hezbollah is likely to renew efforts to fulfill its self-proclaimed “equation of deterrence” against Israel.
Joe Truzman is a contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: hezbollah, IDF, Israel, lebanon, Nasrallah

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IRGC-controlled Afghan group loses fighter to COVID-19

An Afghan paramilitary group that answers to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the Fatemiyoun Division, announced on Aug. 16 that one of its fighters has died as a result of COVID-19. That statement appears to be the first official confirmation of the pandemic’s existence among the Fatemiyoun’s ranks.
Mohammad Amin Sadeghi (Abu Heydar) was one of the group’s most experienced fighters – and one of the first to join the group when it formed in 2013. According to a Fatemiyoun eulogy, he was an Afghan migrant residing in Damascus, where he was buried.
In recent months, the group has heavily publicized efforts to combat the pandemic in Syria and Iran. However, in April, it had publicized two units stationed in Syria commemorating a religious holiday with sports tournaments without implementing any apparent social-distancing measures. Sadeghi’s death raised the question about how widespread the virus is among Fatemiyoun, as well as the Guard Corps in Syria.
The paramilitary group also recently buried two fighters, who have died under mysterious circumstances, in a ceremony in Mashhad, Iran. The timing of those burials and lack of transparency raised the question whether the two died because of COVID-19, though Israeli strikes could also explain the deaths. Abdol-Ali Hosseini was “martyred” – a phrase reserved for fighters fallen in battle – in Damascus on July 18, according to the Fatemiuyoun.
No insurgent group has claimed Hosseini’s death, and there hasn’t been fighting with insurgent forces in the area for some time. Israeli airstrikes in the vicinity of Damascus were reported on July 20. Hosseini was buried alongside another “martyr,” Alireza Naimi, about whom no information was immediately provided. Recent confirmed Fatemiyoun deaths have been usually the results of Islamic State booby traps, at least as far as the Fatemiyoun says. The circumstances surrounding the publicized deaths of Hosseini and Naimi make it possible that the two died in Israeli airstrikes. The IRGC has tended to not publicize deaths from Israeli strikes, in one instance in 2018 an IRGC-linked news agency retracted a report that confirmed eight Iranians died in an attack.
Amir Toumaj is a independent analyst and contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Fatemiyoun, IRGC

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Generation Jihad Ep. 23 – Joe Biden Can’t End the Jihad

Nor can President Trump. Hosts Tom Joscelyn and Bill Roggio discuss former VP Joe Biden’s intent to “end” the “forever wars.” President Trump has pledged to do the same, but hasn’t delivered. Why? The jihad continues.

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Take a look around the globe today and you’ll see jihadists fighting everywhere from West Africa to Southeast Asia. They aren’t the dominant force in all of those areas, or even most of them. But jihadism has mushroomed into a worldwide movement, with al-Qaeda, the Taliban, ISIS and other groups waging guerrilla warfare and launching terrorist attacks on a regular basis.
Each week Generation Jihad brings you a new story focusing on jihadism around the globe. These stories will focus not only on Sunni jihadism, but also Shiite extremist groups. We will also host guests who can provide their own unique perspectives on current events.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal. Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Afghanistan, Al Qaeda Central, counter terrorism, Endless Jihad, Endless Wars, Joe Biden, Taliban

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Generation Jihad Ep. 22 – Conspiracies Everywhere

Hosts Tom Joscelyn and Bill Roggio discuss the prevalence of conspiracy theories in the post-9/11 era. Osama bin Laden was upset that some pretend al Qaeda wasn’t responsible for 9/11, but bin Laden was a conspiracy theorist himself. Al Qaeda was founded on the nonsensical claim that there’s a “Zionist-Crusader” alliance against Muslims. 

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Take a look around the globe today and you’ll see jihadists fighting everywhere from West Africa to Southeast Asia. They aren’t the dominant force in all of those areas, or even most of them. But jihadism has mushroomed into a worldwide movement, with al-Qaeda, the Taliban, ISIS and other groups waging guerrilla warfare and launching terrorist attacks on a regular basis.
Each week Generation Jihad brings you a new story focusing on jihadism around the globe. These stories will focus not only on Sunni jihadism, but also Shiite extremist groups. We will also host guests who can provide their own unique perspectives on current events.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal. Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: 9/11 attacks, Al Qaeda, Conspiracy Theories, Taliban-Al Qaeda

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Pakistani Taliban splinter factions officially rejoin group

The Pakistani Taliban announced today that two splinter factions, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA) and Hizb-ul-Ahrar (HuA), have rejoined the organization. The group trumpeted the reunification in a statement released on its official media sites.Both Omar Khalid Khorasani (the leader of JuA) and Omar Khorasani (the head of HuA) have “pledged allegiance” to the emir of the Pakistani Taliban, Noor Wali Mehsud, according to the statement. Their oath of fealty is for “emigration and Jihad.”
Noor Wali was named the overall leader of the Pakistani Taliban in June 2018, shortly after his predecessor, Mullah Fazlullah, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in the eastern Afghan province of Kunar. Wali, also known as Abu Mansoor Asim, is a veteran jihadist who fought alongside the Afghan Taliban against the Northern Alliance, as well as against the U.S. and its allies after the Oct. 2001 invasion.
The Pakistani Taliban (also known as the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP) has long been a coalition of jihadist groups operating in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Due to personality and leadership disputes, as well as other problems, the organization’s composition has changed through the years. Even though the group officially rejected the Islamic State’s caliphate claim, some of its members and midlevel commanders defected.
However, the Pakistani Taliban’s internal dynamics are not always clear. Omar Khalid Khorasani, the JuA emir, reportedly reunited with the Pakistani Taliban in 2015. Apparently, that did not take, at least not completely, and another official merger was necessary.
“The central leadership of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan has been making efforts to unite all the groups, who are individually fighting the tyrannical system in Pakistan, by solving their issues so that the Jihad in Pakistan and efforts to establish Shariah can be strengthened,” the group’s statement reads. “All praise belongs to Allah that they have succeeded in this goal to a great extent and are further determined to carry on with their efforts.”
Both Omar Khalid Khorasani (JuA) and Omar Khorasani (HuA) have proclaimed an “end” to “their former groups,” while vowing that “they and their associates would abide by the Shariah rules and principles of the” Pakistani Taliban.
In turn, Noor Wali and his men “welcomed them as usual and the armed Mujahideen present during the pledge greeted them with light and heavy weapons,” according to the group’s statement.
The Pakistani Taliban hopes that the joint venture will encourage others to unify for jihad against parts of the Pakistani state. The group says it “invites wholeheartedly all groups affiliated with Jihad in Pakistan towards unity and to carry out their struggle by uniting with the TTP instead of fighting individually.” Noor Wali’s men “also send a message to the enemy that this holy Jihad of ours will continue till the false tyrannical system is eradicated from Pakistan and the oppressed are freed from the clutches of the oppressor.”
The Pakistani Taliban has been designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the United Nations. Under one of its previous emirs, Hakeemullah Mehsud, it was responsible for the failed May 2010 car bombing in New York City’s Times Square.
Noor Wali Mehsud was designated as a terrorist by the U.S. government and U.N.
JuA, which initially broke away from the Pakistani Taliban in 2014, has been designated as well. In 2016, the State Department noted that JuA is “based in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region” and “has staged multiple attacks in the region targeting civilians, religious minorities, military personnel, and law enforcement.” The JuA is “responsible for the killing of two Pakistani employees of the U.S. Consulate in Peshawar in early March 2016,” as well as a “suicide assault” at an amusement park in Lahore that same month. The latter attack “killed more than 70 people,” “nearly half of them women and children,” and also “injured hundreds more.”
It is possible that al Qaeda played a role in the newly announced unification efforts. Dual hatted al Qaeda operatives have done just that in the past. And the Pakistani Taliban continues to advertise its ties to both al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban.
Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Hizb-ul-Ahrar, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, Pakistani Taliban

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Shabaab hits hotel, military base with suicide assaults

Shabaab’s claim of responsibility for the assault on the Elite Hotel in Mogadishu, as republished by al-Qaeda’s al-Hijrah Media.
Over the past two days, Shabaab, al-Qaeda’s branch in East Africa, has launched two suicide assaults across Somalia. The first targeted a popular hotel in Mogadishu, while the second hit a Somali military base outside of Baidoa.
Yesterday, a team of Shabaab’s men attacked the popular Elite Hotel on Mogadishu’s Lido Beach. In its standard procedure for these operations, the jihadists began the assault with a suicide car bombing on the hotel’s perimeter. An assault team then entered the hotel, killing civilians and taking even more as hostages.
According to local reporting, at least 10 civilians and one member of Somalia’s security forces were killed during the nearly four hour attack.
Officials from Somalia’s information and defense ministries were also confirmed among the dead.
The spokesman for Somalia’s Ministry of Information also confirmed that Somali special forces were able to free at least 205 people taken as hostage in the hotel.
Shabaab quickly claimed the operation, stating via its Shahada News Agency that “a martyrdom operation targeted the government headquarters, the Elite Hotel.” The al-Qaeda branch then states that the hotel is popular among Somali officials
Providing a perverse justification for its massacre, it also adds that the hotel was targeted because its owner, Abdullahi Mohamed Nur, is a former government minister and current member of Somalia’s parliament.
Striking hotels and other establishments popular with Somali or international government officials with a suicide assault is a common tactic of the jihadist group.
Over the past few years, Shabaab has raided Mogadishu’s SYL Hotel on multiple occasions, Maka al Mukarama Hotel, Dayah Hotel, Beach View Hotel, Ambassador’s Hotel, Central Hotel, Al Sahafi Hotel, and Jazeera Hotel.
Elsewhere, Shabaab has also struck hotels in Kismayo and in Kenya’s capital of Nairobi.
Suicide assault on military base
In addition to yesterday’s terrorist attack, Shabaab has also claimed today’s raid on a military base in Goof Gaduud near the southern city of Baidoa.
Utilizing a similar modus operandi, a suicide car bomb detonated near the base’s perimeter before an assault team began firing on security forces.
At least five soldiers were killed in the raid, including two Somali officers, while an estimated 10 militants were killed. Local outlets, however, have stated the death toll for both sides may actually be higher.
For its part, the Somali National News Agency stated that “dozens” of Shabaab militants were killed.
Garowe Online, a local Somali publication, has also reported that the local police chief and mayor were among the dead in the base. Other outlets have stated that Shabaab’s men initially overran the outpost and booby-trapped dead bodies before withdrawing.
In Shabaab’s statement of responsibility, which was republished by al-Qaeda’s al-Hijrah Media, it repeated the death claim for the local officials while adding that at least 8 Somali soldiers were killed.
With the two new suicide bombings, this means Shabaab has conducted at least 21 suicide bombings inside Somalia since the beginning of the year according to data compiled by FDD’s Long War Journal. At least eight of the bombings have occurred inside Mogadishu.
Attacks continue on Somali government officials
Shabaab has also continued to target Somali government officials in this year’s renewed assassination campaign.
Around the same time as yesterday’s hotel assault that killed two officials, Shabaab also attempted to assassinate Somalia’s education minister, Abdullahi Godah Barre, in an ambush with an improvised explosive device (IED) in the southern region of Gedo.
Local media has reported that Barre was lightly injured, while two members of his delegation were also hurt in the blast. Shabaab quickly claimed credit for the explosion, though its first statement offered no additional details from local reporting.
But earlier today, the Shabaab-affiliated website Somali Memo stated that three additional Somali government officials, including two members of parliament, were also targeted in the Gedo blast.
An additional Somali official was reported injured at the time, but the lawmaker’s name was not immediately revealed.
Since March, Shabaab has conducted a campaign of coordinated attacks against Somali government and military officials.
For instance, it has assassinated two governors with suicide bombings, kidnapped and executed one state lawmaker, and attempted to kill Somalia’s top general in another suicide bombing.
Despite some setbacks in recent years, Shabaab continues to be one of al-Qaeda’s most effective branches. It maintains significant control over much of southern Somalia and retains the ability to strike in Mogadishu, Kenya, and against heavily fortified bases in both Somalia and Kenya.
Though its fortunes have ebbed and flowed over the past decade, it has weathered numerous offensives from an array of local, regional, and international actors, including the United States.
Caleb Weiss is a contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Al Qaeda in East Africa, Mogadishu, Shabaab, Somalia

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Taliban refuses to negotiate with ‘Kabul administration’ it does not recognize as legitimate

Even after the Afghan government released nearly 5,000 Taliban prisoners to grease the skids ahead of negotiations with the jihadist group, the Taliban explicitly stated that it will not conduct talks directly with the Afghan government because it “does not recognize the Kabul administration as a government.”
In a statement released on Voice of Jihad on Aug. 15, 2020, the Taliban slammed the Afghan government, saying government’s claim that it would lead negotiations is “against established facts.” Indeed, those facts have already been well established.
From Voice of Jihad:

For the past few days, officials of the Kabul administration have been taking a stance against established facts regarding launch of intra-Afghan negotiations and prisoners of the Islamic Emirate.
Two days earlier, an advisor to Kabul administration’s Arg stated that ‘intra-Afghan’ term ascribed to the negotiation process was incorrect and that talks were going to be held between the Kabul administration and Taliban along with other such remarks.
The Islamic Emirate does not recognize the Kabul administration as a government but views it as western imported structure working for the continuation of American occupation.
We only accept and have made preparations for negotiations that were described in the historic Doha agreement and those are intra-Afghan negotiations that cover all parties to the Afghan conflict.
Reaction by spokesman of Islamic Emirate to allegations by Kabul officials about prisoners and negotiations,Voice of Jihad, Aug. 15, 2020 [PDF]
The Taliban is correct. The agreement between the United States and the Taliban does not call for direct negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government. This is because the Taliban has long insisted that the Afghan government is merely a “puppet” and “stooge” of the West. This is a position it has held since the Afghan government was formed in early 2004, one now being reiterated in the Aug. 15 statement.
Instead, the three and a half-page agreement states that “the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan which is not recognized by the United States as a state and is known as the Taliban will start intra-Afghan negotiations with Afghan sides on March 10, 2020 … [emphasis ours].”
Nowhere in the agreement does it say that the Taliban will negotiate with the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the government of Afghanistan, or any other name used to describe the Afghan government. The agreement only calls for “intra-Afghan negotiations with Afghan sides.”
Note that “sides” is plural. This is because the term “intra-Afghan negotiations” refers to talks with all elements of Afghan society: civil, religious, etc. The Afghan government can only send representatives to the “intra-Afghan negotiations,” but the Afghan government cannot lead the talks, nor can it be directly represented.
Led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Zalmay Khalilzad, the Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, the U.S. signed a deal with the Taliban that ensured the Afghan government could not conduct direct talks with the Taliban.
Instead, at best, the Afghan government can only be a party to the deal. It can be one of many “sides” that are tasked with negotiating with the Taliban.
The Taliban insisted from the beginning that the Afghan government was not legitimate, and therefore it would not negotiate with it. This is why the negotiations leading up to the U.S.-Taliban deal, which is routinely described as a “peace deal” but is really a withdrawal deal, excluded the Afghan government.
The Taliban refused to allow the Afghan government to be a party to the talks, and the U.S. made agreements with the Taliban without consulting the Afghan government (such as the lopsided and ill-advised prisoner exchange). This, in turn, legitimized the Taliban’s stance that the Afghan government is subservient to the United States. And the Afghan government reinforced this perception by agreeing to free 5,000 Taliban prisoners in exchange for just 1,000 of its own men.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Afghanistan, Taliban, Withdrawal Deal

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IRGC-led Afghan group releases Syria training camp video

This video portion is a fighter motivating and riling up combatants. A verse of his poem says “if the Shiite army moves and awakes/the head of every ISIS [member] will be on the gallows.” pic.twitter.com/FrveCznc9g
— Amir Toumaj (@AmirToumaj) August 5, 2020

On 4 August, US-designated terrorist group Fatemiyoun Division, a Shiite-Afghan paramilitary unit that answers to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Qods Force, released an “exclusive” video of fighters undergoing “specialized” training at a camp in Syria. The exact date and location of the footage are unclear. The paramilitary group’s Media Center produced and released the footage on its social media channels.
The video showcases light infantry performing drills and close quarter combat training. The snipers are probably wielding AM-50 Sayyad, the Iranian copy of Austrian Steyr HS .50.
The group said the video was released to mark Qadir-e Khom holiday, when Shiites believe Prophet Muhammad designated his cousin and son-in-law Ali ibn Abi Talib, who later became known as caliph and the first Shiite Imam, as successor (Sunnis have a different interpretation of the event).
A portion of the video shows a man, who speaks Persian with an accent from Tehran, addressing and motivating a column of Afghan fighters with a poetry dedicated to Imam Ali. One of the lines said, “if the army of the Shiite moves and awakens/all scoundrel [ISIS] heads will hang.”
Throughout the course of the Syrian war, IRGC used sectarian rhetoric to portray all its Sunni opposition as extremists, and, after 2014, heavily used the ISIS label. The Guard Corps and its proxies have committed atrocities and abuses against Sunnis in Iraq and Syria. ISIS, of course, has used genocidal rhetoric and committed numerous atrocities against Shiites. The IRGC and ISIS cast each other as protectors of their respective Shiite and Sunni communities, and have used one another’s true and imagined atrocities as recruitment. Officially formed in 2013 and constituted by Hazara-Shiite Afghans, the Fatemiyoun Division has been instrumental in the IRGC’s intervention in Syria. Since drawing down troops following the end of 2017 campaign in eastern Syria, the Fatemiyoun has continued to deploy forces to the theater. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, it has frequently featured fighters and members in Syria and Iran participating in pandemic aid, for example producing masks at a factory in Syria.
Amir Toumaj is a independent analyst and contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Fatemiyoun Division, IRGC, Qods Force

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Taliban parades fighters as 400 more prisoners are freed

The Taliban released a series of photographs that show its fighters parading in the eastern Afghan provinces of Logar, Laghman and Ghazni. The Taliban fighters were operating in broad daylight, without fear of reprisal from Afghan or Coalition forces.
The set of photographs was released on Voice of Jihad, the Taliban’s official website, on Aug. 10, 2020. The only text accompanying the images was the title, “Valiant Mujahideen in Ghazni, Logar and Laghman.”
FDD’s Long War Journal cannot confirm if the photographs were taken recently, or where they were taken. However, in the past the Taliban has released images and videos of similar event that have later proven to be accurate.
The photographs show scores of heavily armed Taliban fighters riding on motorcycles or in vehicles, and marching on foot, all while flying the Taliban’s distinctive white banner. The Taliban fighters have no fear of being targeted by air or ground operations.
The Taliban is known to control or heavily contest territory in all three provinces. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Mapping Taliban Control in Afghanistan.]
The Taliban is displaying its military might as Afghan politicians are hoping to conduct negotiations to end the nearly two decade-long war. In that effort, the Afghan government has agreed to release the final batch of 400 prisoners demanded by the Taliban.
Of the 400 Taliban prisoners to be set free:
156 have been sentenced to death;
105 are accused of murder;
34 are accused of kidnapping that led to murder;
51 are accused of drug smuggling;
44 are blacklisted by the Afghan government and its allies;
Six are accused of other crimes;
Four are accused of unspecified crimes.

In all, more than 5,000 Taliban prisoners have been set free. These freed commanders and fighters are likely to bolster the ranks of the Taliban. Historically, former Taliban prisoners are known to return to the battlefield at high rates.
Images of “Valiant Mujahideen in Ghazni, Logar and Laghman”
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Afghanistan, Taliban

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Palestinian factions resume activity at Gaza border

Palestinian preparing incendiary-laden balloons Credit: Ahfad al Nasser
Palestinian militant factions have resumed launching incendiary and explosive-laden balloons toward southern Israel in an attempt to force the Israeli government to comply with terms reached in a ceasefire agreement earlier this year.Palestinian factions operating under front groups such as Ibna’a al Zawari, Ahfed al Nasser and Adat Sayf al Jihadiya, resumed their campaign on Aug. 8 by posting messages and videos on jihadist social media sites claiming responsibility for the attacks.
“Watch the Gaza cover, how it is burning now as a result of Gantz’s [Defense Minister] statements as he leads the settlers to destruction. We will make the cover [Gaza border] hell, and the fire will expand in the coming hours if he does not understand the message well,” Adat Sayf al Jihadiya stated.
Other activity added to the growing instability. There were two shootings on Sunday, against Israelis working at the Gaza border and Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers who responded to the incident occurred without causing injury, added to the growing instability. On Monday, Hamas’ military wing, al Qassam Brigades, conducted a daytime rocket test toward the Mediterranean sea in a show of force against Israel.
Several understandings reached between Israel and Palestinian factions since 2018 have brought about only several months of calm. Demands from Hamas that Israel is unlikely to concede to – such as ending the blockade of the Gaza Strip – have been used as a reason for factions to restart their pressure campaign even though there is no evidence that Israel ever agreed to such a demand in the first place.
Also, Israel’s response has been illogical and sometimes confusing. On Aug. 9, the IDF responded to the burning balloons by attacking an empty Humat al Thagour (al Qassam Brigades border patrol) observation post in the middle of the night. It likely cost the IDF more to fuel the attack helicopters used in the strike than what Humat al Thagour spent in constructing the observation post.
This type of response has developed into an ineffective pattern over the last two years. The IDF has signaled that as long as nobody is killed or injured by the attacks, a lackluster retaliation should be expected. This policy has not deterred the factions since they understand that based on the IDF’s history, it is unlikely they will suffer any serious consequences for their actions.
If the Israeli government is in search for peace that lasts more than a few months, it either needs to fully concede to Hamas’ demands – which will further embolden them to pressure Israel in the future – or rethink its current policy by giving its military more power to deter the factions from conducting this type of low-tech attrition campaign.
Joe Truzman is a contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Gaza, Hamas, IDF, Israel

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Generation Jihad Ep. 21 – An ISIS Jailbreak in Afghanistan

ISIS orchestrated an assault on the main prison in Jalalabad earlier this month. Afghan officials immediately accused the Taliban of planning the attack. Hosts Tom Joscelyn and Bill Roggio discuss this allegation, as well as other recent events.

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Take a look around the globe today and you’ll see jihadists fighting everywhere from West Africa to Southeast Asia. They aren’t the dominant force in all of those areas, or even most of them. But jihadism has mushroomed into a worldwide movement, with al-Qaeda, the Taliban, ISIS and other groups waging guerrilla warfare and launching terrorist attacks on a regular basis.
Each week Generation Jihad brings you a new story focusing on jihadism around the globe. These stories will focus not only on Sunni jihadism, but also Shiite extremist groups. We will also host guests who can provide their own unique perspectives on current events.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal. Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Afghanistan, Al Qaeda in Iran, Al Qaeda-ISIS rivalry, ISIS, ISIS-K, Pakistani Taliban

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Hezbollah denies link to Beirut explosion

Hassan Nasrallah’s August 7, 2020 speech. Credit: Al Manar
Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah took to the airwaves Friday to deny the group’s involvement in the Beirut port explosions that killed more than 130 people and injured thousands.
“I want to declare that we absolutely have nothing to do with this. We’ve never had rockets, explosives, ammonium nitrate, not a single bullet stored there. Not in the past, not currently and not in the future,” Nasrallah emphatically stated.
Furthermore, Nasrallah denied the group was active at the port and suggested it knew more about the Israeli port of Haifa than it did Beirut’s port.
“We don’t control the port, we don’t govern the port, we don’t know what’s happening inside the port and the warehouse. Hezbollah is about resistance, we probably know more about Haifa than we know about Beirut,” Nasrallah said.
The statement “we don’t know what’s happening inside the port” is difficult to believe. It is unlikely one of the most powerful paramilitary groups in the world isn’t aware of the activity going on at a major commercial transport hub in its own country. It also counters what was discussed at a United Nations Security Council meeting in 2019, according to a Reuters report.
“Israel found that Iran and the Quds Forces have begun to advance the exploitation of civilian maritime channels,” and that Beirut “is now the Port of Hezbollah” the Reuters report stated.
Additionally, for Nasrallah to defend Hezbollah from accusations of complicity in the Beirut port explosion reveals the growing pressure from the Lebanese public the group finds itself under.
Years of political corruption, economic woes, unsolved assassinations, and the recent COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to the anger of Lebanese citizens.
The trending hashtag in Lebanon after the explosion was “Hang the nooses” (#علقوا_المشانق), a direct threat to the political elite in Lebanon, who the public saw as culpable in the explosion.
“Either they keep killing us or we kill them,” Ramez al Qadi, a well known al Jadeed TV anchor tweeted.
The investigation into the explosion will likely last months, if not years. Given Lebanon’s history, it is unlikely an investigation will be able to determine if Hezbollah had any role – directly or indirectly – in the worst disaster the country has seen in recent memory.
Joe Truzman is a contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: beirut, hezbollah, lebanon

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Al Qaeda-linked group claims attack in northwestern Nigeria

Screenshot from al-Qaeda’s Thabat News Telegram channel claiming a recent attack in Nigeria on behalf of Ansaru.
Jamaat al-Ansar al-Muslimeen fi Bilad al-Sudan, better known as Ansaru, reported yesterday that its men were behind a recent attack in Nigeria’s northwestern Kaduna State.The statement was published by al-Qaeda’s Thabat News, an outlet that carries statements and propaganda from al-Qaeda groups around the world and operates much like the Islamic State’s Amaq News.
Published yesterday afternoon, Ansaru’s statement said that “more than 25 apostates were killed and 10 wounded in an attack by the mujahideen of Jamaat al-Ansar al-Muslimeen fi Bilad al-Sudan.” It adds that the assault was carried out “on a position of the Nigerian army in Kaduna State in central Nigeria.”
No photo evidence or other information was provided with the claim. Given the recent spate of attacks in Kaduna since late July, it is thus hard to pinpoint Ansaru’s exact claimed operation.
For instance, on July 20, at least 19 people were killed by gunmen in the village of Kukim Daji. Local officials have also indicated another nearby village was also attacked at the same time.
A day later, another 11 people were killed by militants in the village of Gora Gan. On July 22, at least 38 people were killed during raids on two other villages in Kaduna. And on Aug. 6, 33 civilians were killed in the town of Zango Kataf.
These massacres represent just the latest in a series of battles between ethnic Fulani herders and Christian farmers in northwestern Nigeria during the past few years.
Not one of the recent raids were conducted against Nigerian security services, making Ansaru’s claim more perplexing. While it is unclear which specific strike Ansaru is referring to, it is clear that the group is continuing to indicate its role in the rising ethnic violence in Kaduna State.
The al-Qaeda-linked outfit has advertised its role in the Kaduna violence since its revival late last year. In its first claimed operation since 2013, Ansaru said it was responsible for a Jan. 2020 ambush on the convoy of the Emir of Potiskum of Nigeria’s Yobe State as he was traveling through Kaduna.
As ethnic violence and banditry continues to expand in northwestern Nigeria, it is likely that Ansaru is attempting to exploit the chaos for its attempted resurgence. Much like how al-Qaeda has embedded itself in communal conflict in Mali, it is likely Ansaru could do the same by siding with Fulani herders or Fulani militias in northwestern Nigeria.
Additionally, as the conflict in the Sahel also spreads, it is possible this could act as a boon for the jihadi franchise as Ansaru could utilize al-Qaeda’s men in the region, the Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM), to leverage its own expansion in Nigeria.
Background on Ansaru’s revival
Yesterday’s attack claim was just the second such statement after Ansaru announced its return in October by releasing a new photo of its men inside Nigeria.
While the photo itself offered little information, the release was meant to demonstrate Ansaru’s continued existence and presence inside Nigeria. This attempted resurgence has been hinted at in al Qaeda’s propaganda in the past.
For instance, in 2017, Al Risalah Magazine, a former publication released by al Qaeda-linked jihadists in Syria, published an article penned by Usama al Ansari. Ansari, who was described as Ansaru’s emir, heavily criticized Abubakar Shekau, offered a detailed history of the group, and spoke highly of al Qaeda’s men around the world in the piece.
That article was the first sign of life for the group in almost two years at the time.
Prior to the magazine article, the last Ansaru publications were in early 2015. In January and February of that year, two videos were released by the jihadist group with the aim of distancing itself from the actions of Abubakar Shekau and his Boko Haram.
In the videos and aforementioned magazine article, Ansaru’s leaders closely stuck to al Qaeda’s guidelines for jihad. This was not surprising as the history of the group is closely tied to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
Two of Ansaru’s founders and leaders were trained by AQIM’s men in Mali. In some instances, Ansaru’s men even took part in al Qaeda’s operations in the Sahel and further claimed attacks inside Nigeria in defense of AQIM in Mali.
And in 2013, Khalid al Barnawi, the former leader of Ansaru, referred to Ayman al Zawahiri as “our good emir” and praised al Qaeda’s branches around the world.
After Boko Haram pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in March 2015, Ansaru has widely been regarded as al Qaeda’s franchise in Nigeria.
However, following fierce competition with Boko Haram, and later the Islamic State West Africa, and the arrest of Barnawi in 2016, Ansaru was severely weakened and largely relegated to a state of dormancy.
These sporadic claims are thus meant to demonstrate that Ansaru has finally become operational after a long hiatus of dormancy and that it can be an alternative jihadist entity to join.
If true, this would allow al-Qaeda to attempt to posit itself as a challenger to both the Islamic State and Abubakar Shekau’s Jamaat Ahl al-Sunnah in Nigeria.
Caleb Weiss is a contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Al Qaeda in Nigeria, ansaru, Jamaat al Ansar al Muslimeen, Kaduna, Nigeria

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Attack reportedly foiled at Syria-Golan border

Militants who were targeted by an IDF airstrike at the Syria-Golan border. Credit: Israel Defense Forces
After several tense weeks along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) stated it had thwarted an attack near Tel Fares at the Syria-Golan border Sunday evening.“We just thwarted an attempt by four terrorists to place explosives near the security fence between Israel and Syria. Our troops and aircraft fired toward the squad and a hit was identified. We are ready for any scenario and hold the Syrian regime responsible for all events in Syria,” the IDF stated via its Twitter account.
The statement of holding the Syrian regime responsible materialized a little over 24 hours later when the IDF assaulted several Syrian Arab Army (SAA) positions in southern Syria.
“In response to an attempted IED attack near the security fence between Syria & Israel last night, we just struck SAF targets in Syria including: observation posts, intel collection systems, anti-aircraft artillery, and command & control systems. We hold Syria responsible,” the IDF statement read.
Providing further proof of the attackers intent on Sunday, images and video were published by the IDF identifying the location of the incident including what the IDF said was a bag containing explosives used by the men. Weapons carried by the militants were found 25 meters inside Israeli territory suggesting they successfully crossed over the border fence before they were targeted.
The identity of the men and their affiliation has not been determined but the IDF did not rule out the possibility they belonged to Hezbollah, whose fighters have been documented operating in the area since last year.
Another alternative is the men could have belonged to a Syrian-based militia group sent by Iran to carry out an operation against IDF troops as retribution for Israeli airstrikes against pro-Iranian positions in Syria on July 20.
As of now, Syria and Hezbollah have not publicly commented about the incident. However, it was announced Monday that Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah will deliver a speech on Wednesday.
It is not without precedence that Hezbollah could retaliate from Syrian territory. However, it is unlikely the militants were members of the group. There have not been any claims by Hezbollah or any other group of responsibility for the strike. Also, the men’s actions and movements recorded on camera were uncharacteristic of well-trained Hezbollah militants. It bore a resemblance to poorly trained Palestinian fighters who’ve previously attacked IDF troops along the Gaza-Israel border.
By assessing the unlikelihood of Hezbollah’s involvement in Sunday night’s assault, the IDF is forced to continue its heightened state of alert in anticipation of the next attack along its northern border.
Joe Truzman is a contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Golan Heights, hezbollah, IDF, Israel, Israel Defense Forces, Syria

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Islamic State claims prison raid in eastern Afghanistan

The Islamic State’s Khorasan province has claimed responsibility for a prison raid in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad.The attack began yesterday when a suicide bomber detonated a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) at the gates of the prison. A team of jihadists then stormed the facility, leading to a prolonged siege that lasted approximately 18 to 20 hours.
Jalalabad is the capital of Nangarhar, an eastern province the Islamic State has operated in for years. At one point, the so-called caliphate’s men controlled several districts in Nangarhar, only to lose ground in battles with the U.S. and Afghan forces, as well as their jihadi rivals in the Taliban.
Initial casualty reports say that 29 or more people were killed, while dozens more were wounded in the prison assault.
According to TOLOnews, the police chief of Nangarhar, said that eight attackers were killed during a firefight with security forces.
At this point, it is not clear how many prisoners escaped. The Associated Press reports that the facility holds “about 1,500 inmates, of which several hundred are believed to be ISIS members.” Afghan officials claim that roughly 1,000 prisoners were found and taken back into custody after their escape into the city. But the situation is fluid and there is still much uncertainty.
The Islamic State initially claimed responsibility for the attack via its Amaq News Agency. The group then issued a longer statement, identifying the suicide bomber as a foreign fighter who immigrated to Afghanistan for jihad. The jihadists claim that hundreds of inmates were freed, while 100 or so policemen and Afghan soldiers were killed. Those figures have not been confirmed, however, as independent accounts indicate there were fewer casualties.
On July 30, the Islamic State’s Wilayah Khorasan (or Khorasan “province”) claimed responsibility for a rare bombing in Afghanistan’s western Herat province. Via its Amaq News Agency, the self-declared caliphate claimed its “soldiers detonated a sticky bomb against a bus carrying polytheist rejectionists in Sector 12 of the city of Herat.”
The Sunni jihadists consistently refer to Shiites as “polytheist rejectionists,” as they seek to export their sectarian focus from Iraq and Syria to Afghanistan, as well as other countries. Amaq’s media team initially claimed that 15 Shiites were “killed or wounded” on the bus. The number of casualties climbed in the hours following the explosion, with The New York Times reporting that 35 civilians were killed and dozens more injured.
The Islamic State portrays both the prison raid and the bombing in Herat as part of its ongoing “Battle of Attrition,” a worldwide campaign that is intended to demonstrate the group’s resiliency and cohesion despite multiple setbacks.
Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Afghanistan, ISIS, ISIS prison raid, ISIS-K, Islamic State, Islamic State Khorasan Province, Islamic State prison raid

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