AFRICOM kills ‘foundational’ Shabaab leader in strike

U.S. Africa Command killed Yusuf Jiis, who was described as “one of the foundational members” of Shabaab – al Qaeda’s branch in East Africa – in an airstrike on April 2.
AFRICOM has stepped up its air campaign against Shabaab in the first three-plus months of the year, already targeting the group 33 times in 2020 – more than half of 2019’s total.
Jiis was a “was a long-standing, high-ranking leader in the al-Shabaab terrorist organization,” AFRICOM said in a press release that announced his death today. Jiis was among three Shabaab members that were killed in an April 2 airstrike near the town of Bush Madina in Bay province. AFRICOM followed up the April 2 strike with another on April 3, also in Bush Madina, that killed five Shabaab operatives.
Jiis was described as “one of the foundational members” who “held many significant positions that facilitated al-Shabaab’s violent and harmful activities throughout East Africa.”
AFRCOM has significantly increased its targeting of Shabaab this year, particularly after the group attacked the Manda Bay Airfield in Kenya on Jan. 5. That early morning attack resulted in the death of an American soldier and two U.S. contractors, as well as the destruction of several aircraft. Shabaab also attacked a nearby base where U.S. troops were stationed.
Initially, AFRICOM claimed that U.S. and Somali forces “repelled” the assault and accused Shabaab of Shabaab of exaggerating the effects of its operation.
AFRICOM later admitted that Shabaab “achieved a degree of success in its attack.”
AFRICOM has launched 33 strikes against Shabaab since the Manda Bay assault, according to information compiled by FDD’s Long War Journal. Exactly 21 of those strikes have taken place in the last six weeks since AFRICOM killed one of the operational commanders behind Manda Bay.
For comparison, in 2019, AFRICOM launched 51 airstrike over the course of 12 months.
The U.S. military has maintained that Shabaab remains both a regional and global threat.
“Al-Shabaab remains a disease in Somalia and is an indiscriminate killer of innocent people and their only desire is to brutalize populations inside Somalia and outside of Somalia,” said Maj. Gen. William Gayler, AFRICOM’s Director of Operations.
Shabaab is one of Al Qaeda’s most effective branches. Its fortunes have ebbed and flowed over the past decade, as it has weathered numerous offensives from an array of local, regional, and international actors, including the United States. It continues to plot against the West even as it wages a brutal insurgency that provides control of an estimated 25 percent of Somali’s territory.
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: Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda East Africa, Kenya, Shabaab, Somalia

Continue viewing...

Generation Jihad: Ep. 4 – ISIS: A History of the Caliphate

Hosts Tom Joscelyn and Bill Roggio discuss the rise and fall of ISIS – the would-be caliphate. More than a year has passed since ISIS lost the last town under its control. Tom and Bill discuss the history of the ISIS and how the idea of building a caliphate in Iraq evolved over time. Bill witnessed the jihadists’ earliest state-building efforts during multiple embeds in Iraq.

Powered by RedCircle
Subscribe:

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, Iraq, ISIL, ISIS, Islamic Stat of Iraq, Islamic State

Continue viewing...

League of the Revolutionaries threatens U.S. Embassy in Iraq

Screenshot from the video released by the League of the Revolutionaries purporting to show its drone over the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad.
A new video released by the League of the Revolutionaries (LoR), a likely Iranian-backed front group, warned of a future attack against the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. The video begins by depicting the launch of rockets against American troops operating in Iraq with scenes of U.S. soldiers killed in action. 
In addition to depicting the deaths of American soldiers, an aerial view of the American Embassy in Baghdad is shown. The video from the drone shows it maneuvering over different areas of the Embassy. The video highlights military vehicles, buildings and a helicopter landing pad, all presumed to be sensitive areas of the Embassy. 
The publication ends with the message “US Embassy, our eyes observe their movements and they will not achieve what they want.” 
Another graphic released with the video (shown below) quotes the group as further warning “this embassy of evil is within the sights of our rockets and if we want we can turn it into scattered dust.” It is unclear when the footage was filmed. However, an unidentified commercial drone hovering over the embassy last May caused the compound to enter a temporary lockdown.
If this incident was indeed the work of the LoR, it would further demonstrate its role as a front group as this was almost a year before its publicly announced creation. 
This is not the first time that the LoR has threatened the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. In its inaugural statement last month, it explicitly stated “and we say to the evil clients of the [American] Embassy: Your days are numbered, and you reap what you sow.”
Subsequent social media posts linked to the group have repeated this message. 
As previously detailed by FDD’s Long War Journal, the “League of the Revolutionaries” is likely a front group for other, more established Iranian proxies in Iraq. The use of a one-off front is a tried-and true-method that allows for plausible deniability. 
Moreover, the League of Revolutionaries’ logo, which mirrors that of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its proxies across the Middle East, calls attention to 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. This includes the kidnapping of an American soldier in 2006 and the kidnapping of five Britons in 2007. 
Graphic released by the group warning that the embassy is “within the sights” of its rockets:
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, Iraq, League of the Revolutionaries

Continue viewing...

Taliban touts training camps ‘still going on’ that prepare fighters for ‘war’

Taliban fighters at the Abu Ubaidah bin Jarrah Training Camp. Source: Voice of Jihad.As U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calls for the Taliban to honor a non-existent commitment to “reduce violence,” the Taliban continues to train for war. The Taliban has publicized the training of its fighters at three separate camps over the past five days.
Photographs from the training camps, know as Abu Ubaidah bin Jarrah, Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq, and Abu Dardaa, were published on the Arabic and Pashto language versions of Voice of Jihad, the Taliban’s official website.
The Taliban has not disclosed the locations of the Abu Ubaidah bin Jarrah and Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq camps, however, the location of both should be relatively easy to discern by U.S. and Afghan intelligence services. The Abu Ubaidah bin Jarrah camp is situated in a fixed location, with buildings. The mountainous terrain and vegetation should help locate the Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq camp.
The Taliban explicitly stated that the Abu Dardaa Training Camp is located in the province of Faryab.
Wearing new uniforms, the Taliban fighters were shown in various levels of training.
“The Mujahideen were trained with light and heavy weapons, combat skills and military tactics, and camp officials said that the chain of training of the Mujahideen will continue,” noted the statement promoting the Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq camp.
“The Mujahideen trained all types of heavy and light weapons, and learned military tactics and war planning,” the statement accompanying the Abu Dardaa camp said.
According to the Taliban, the “Islamic Emirate has many training centers throughout the country, which has increased the graduation rate of the mujahideen in this country.”
The “training of the mujahideen is still going on and many other mujahideen are also being trained.”
The Taliban has issued a steady stream of propaganda since 2014 that has highlighted training at its more than 20 camps. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Taliban promotes ‘mujahideen’ graduates from one of its military training camps.]
The Taliban is also known to share its training facilities with foreign jihadist groups, such as the Turkistan Islamic Party. Al Qaeda, the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, and Harakat-ul-Mujahideen are also known to operate training camps inside Afghanistan. These groups could not operate training facilities without the explicit approval and support from the Taliban’s leadership and local units.
Photographs from the Abu Ubaidah bin Jarrah Training Camp:
Photographs from the Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq Training Camp:
Photographs from the Abu Dardaa Training Camp:
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, Taliban, Training Camps

Continue viewing...

Palestinian militants praise Houthi’s offer for prisoner exchange with Saudi Arabia

Palestinian militant groups the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) recently praised the Iranian-backed Houthis for their offer to exchange prisoners with Saudi Arabia.As previously detailed by FDD’s Long War Journal, the leader of the Houthi movement – Abdel Malek al Houthi – recently offered to exchange a captured Saudi pilot, several officers, and soldiers for Hamas members currently being tried in Saudi Arabia for financing terrorism.
Shortly after the offer was made, PIJ publicly praised the Houthi leader.
“The Islamic Jihad Movement in Palestine appreciates the initiative announced by the leader of the Ansar Allah Movement in Yemen, Mr. Abdul-Malik Al-Houthi,” PIJ’s statement read.
Furthermore, PIJ made its feelings known about the arrest, saying Hamas members were “unjustly detained by the Saudi authorities against the background of their positions and their support for the resistance.”
Adding to the public praise, the PFLP also issued a statement lauding the Houthi leader’s initiative to assist in the Palestinian cause.
“The initiative is noble and courageous, and comes as a new affirmation of the authentic and continuous Yemeni position in support of the Palestinian people and their struggle,” PFLP published.
The statement also derided Saudi-led coalition operations in Yemen without specifically calling out Saudi Arabia.
“The initiative expresses the interconnected national struggle, whose Palestinian cause remains its center, despite the suffering of brotherly Yemen from the results of the aggression and the threat to its territorial integrity.”
The statement from PIJ praising the Houthis came as no surprise. Like its counterpart Hamas, PIJ belongs to the “Axis of Resistance.” The axis is made up of Hamas, PIJ, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Iraqi Hezbollah Brigades and others. Under Iran’s guidance and support, the groups operate primarily against Israel, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.
But the PFLP’s statement was somewhat unique due to the limited evidence of the group’s ties with the “Axis of Resistance.”
On the surface it may seem the PFLP is supporting Iranian influence in the region with their public praise of the Houthi offer (which Iran certainly green-lit.) However, the statement falls more in line with previous PFLP statements of support for Palestinian prisoners rather than one showing reverence to Iran and its proxy groups who operate in the region.
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.

Continue viewing...

Attack on Turkish soldiers spotlights Ankara’s Idlib conundrum

On March 19, Turkey’s defense ministry announced the death of two Turkish soldiers at the hands of “radical elements” in northwest Syria’s Idlib. The men were killed in a de-escalation zone that Turkey and Russia first delineated in 2018 and reaffirmed with a ceasefire deal on March 5. Hurras al-Din, an al-Qaeda-affiliated jihadist group, may have been responsible, although the group hasn’t claimed responsibility for the attack. The killings highlight Ankara’s challenges, as the deal with Moscow forces the Turkish government to either coopt, confront, or reach some other accommodation with the al-Qaeda-affiliated jihadists living and operating in Idlib.The ambush targeted Turkish soldiers patrolling the M-4 motorway, a major road that runs from east to west through Idlib. It took place northwest of the town of Mahambel and came after a March 15 video by a joint operations room, which also includes Hurras al-Din, calling for embracing the fighting and rejecting “surrender solutions” of the ceasefire deal. A pro-Syrian regime journalist also claimed in a tweet that Hurras al-Din was responsible for the attack, although the militant group rejected its involvement. Turkey’s defense ministry refrained from naming the group responsible, but claimed that its forces “retaliated in proportion.”
Ankara’s attempts to implement joint patrols with Russia along the M-4 motorway result from the shaky ceasefire deal Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin brokered on March 5. Since the joint patrols began on March 15, they have met with significant opposition. On the first day of the joint patrols, civilians and several jihadist groups, such as Ansar al-Islam, blocked the path of Turkish forces patrolling along the highway. The implementation of the ceasefire will continue to present new challenges for Turkey, as Erdogan must now compel Idlib’s various jihadist factions to at least tacitly accept Turkey’s increased role as the dominant patron of the insurgents in Idlib.
One of these jihadist groups, Hurras al-Din, or “Guardians of the Religion,” was formed when several factions merged in February 2018 as a protest to Hay’at Tahrir al Sham’s (HTS) decision to publicly “disassociate” from al-Qaeda. HTS is the most powerful rebel faction in Idlib, and its leadership decided to accommodate Turkish forces. This decision led to controversy in jihadist circles, with al-Qaeda’s senior leadership warning that Erdogan shouldn’t be trusted. Several al-Qaeda veterans formed Hurras al-Din as a rebel force expressly loyal to al-Qaeda’s global emir, Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Although the relationship between Hurras al-Din and HTS has been tumultuous, they have often shown a willingness to resolve disputes and establish joint conflict resolution committees. Additionally, both groups continue to cooperate on military matters, as exemplified by the formation of the “Incite the Believers” joint operations room in October 2018. This operations room was established by Hurras al-Din and other al-Qaeda-affiliated groups, all of which fight alongside HTS against their common foes.
The tension with jihadist groups such as Ansar al-Islam and Hurras al-Din may present a two-fold challenge by undermining Ankara’s ability to cobble together a united rebel front while simultaneously frustrating Erdogan’s ability to negotiate with Putin regarding Idlib.
Since Russian- and Iranian-backed pro-Assad regime forces launched the second phase of “Operation Dawn of Idlib” on December 19, seeking to capture Idlib’s insurgent-held territory, Turkey has intensified its engagement with HTS. Within the last two months, there have been reported deliberations between HTS and Turkey-backed groups as part of Ankara’s efforts to push HTS to adopt a more moderate stance in exchange for Ankara’s support for international recognition and legitimacy. But groups such as Hurras al-Din seek to preserve their autonomy and operational capacity by frustrating Turkey’s bids to form a united rebel front.
In February 2019, Ayman al Zawahiri criticized Turkey as a “secular” regime, warning its Syrian affiliates not to trust or rely on Turkey as well as the “secular Turkish checkpoints” present in Idlib. These statements from al-Zawahiri undoubtedly fueled the suspicion and mistrust of al-Qaeda commanders in groups such as Hurras al-Din, thus providing an ideological basis on which these groups will continue to resist Ankara’s influence in Idlib as well as the implementation of any Russo-Turkish agreements. Whatever the future of Turkey’s involvement in Idlib may look like, Ankara will have eventually be forced to deal with the al-Qaeda-affiliated jihadists in one fashion or another.
Aykan Erdemir is the senior director of the Turkey Program at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former member of the Turkish parliament. Luc Sasseville is an intern at the Turkey Program of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
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, Ansar al Islam, Guardians of the Religion, Hurras al-Din, Syria, Tanzim Hurras al-Din

Continue viewing...

Generation Jihad: Ep. 3 – AQAP Names A New Emir

Hosts Bill Roggio and Tom Joscelyn profile Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s (AQAP) new emir, Khalid Batarfi. They explain how Batarfi came to his leadership position, what’s ahead for the group’s local and global operations, and what AQAP can teach us about Al Qaeda’s larger structure and the ambitions of jihadist insurgencies the world over. 

Powered by RedCircle
Subscribe:

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, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, AQAP, Generation Jihad, Yemen

Continue viewing...

Saudi textbooks revised, but still incite hate

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has been in power now for just over half a decade.  He and his son Crown Prince Mohammed have been credited with carrying out a comprehensive reform agenda to modernize the kingdom’s economy and liberalize its society.
Some outward signs of a more open country are certainly evident. The austere dress code has been relaxed. Women are permitted to drive and are increasingly found in different sectors of employment. Crucially though, have these visible signs of progress been reflected in education? Is the groundwork being laid by Saudi Arabia’s schools for a different future? 
Following up on several recent studies of the Saudi curriculum by ADL, the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Education in School Textbooks (IMPACT-se) just completed a longer, comprehensive review of Saudi textbooks since 2016, using standards for peace and tolerance outlined by UNESCO as a benchmark.
The results are eye-opening, including the examination of textbooks for the 2019-2020 academic year that are currently in use. In some respects, progress has been made. Hostility towards Christians has been softened in some regards. References to Christianity as a colonial force and “an invalid and perverted religion” have been removed from the latest Saudi curriculum. Unlike previous curricula, terrorism perpetrated by Muslims is specifically and sharply criticized. Importantly, the latest textbooks make clear that self-sacrifice for the sake of jihad, such as suicide bombings, is prohibited. Previous curricula had sought to justify jihad against so-called ‘infidels.’
Although the current curriculum does not promote gender equality, it does endorse female employment, entrepreneurship and the right to drive. Tellingly, a Grade 6 Social Studies and Civics textbook features a cartoon in which a girl says, “I am Saudi: I will be, Inshallah, an outstanding physician, and I will discover more medical inventions.” Teaching female ambition in such a way would have been unthinkable only a few short years ago.
Yet, on the other hand, the latest Saudi curriculum remains plagued by intolerance. Non-Muslims – including Christians and Jews – are still demonized in the latest books as infidels, who are described as enemies of God and all Muslims.  Shi’ite Muslims, referred to derogatorily as “polytheists,” are similarly marginalized and condemned. 
Meanwhile, vicious incitement against gay men continues unabated. They are still presented in this year’s books as scapegoats for societal misfortune, with children taught that society will be punished with disease and disaster for the sin of homosexuality. The kingdom’s lessons continue to teach that the proper penalty for men having sex with men is death.
In addition, the kingdom’s official textbooks still contain numerous messages of anti-Jewish hatred. Jews are described at one point as monkeys and blamed as assassins of Islamic prophets or caliphs throughout history, although some of these references have been cut out since 2017.  Jews are portrayed in several instances as eternally treacherous, guilty of committing evil and determined to harm Muslim holy places. Jews are repeatedly accused of plotting to destroy the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. For example, the textbooks’ authors teach the blood libel blaming Jews or Israeli authorities for setting fire to the mosque in 1969, an act that was actually perpetrated by a mentally ill Christian man from Australia.
Fighting and killing Jews is presented in the Saudi curriculum as a precondition for the End of Days. Some limited improvements have been made in the 2019 curriculum, finally removing a longstanding reference to the slanderous claim that Jews have a secret plan to take over the world, a conspiracy theory that had been highlighted in 2018 on the cover of an ADL research report. Yet, this is wholly overshadowed by what remains a bleak and damaging portrayal of Jews.
In essence, the latest Saudi curriculum seems to be something of a contradiction. On the one hand, there appears to be a real attempt to move away from jihadism. On the other, deep and destructive prejudices remain, including those that are used by extremists to justify religious violence against people demonized as the other. Progress in the curriculum has been tentative and unsure, with stark limits in some of the most important areas. Although the kingdom has undertaken rapid reforms in several other policy areas – such as expanding women’s rights and curtailing the abusive religious police – the kingdom’s rulers have yet to show that they are giving similar priority to the urgent removal of incitement from government-published textbooks.
Marcus Sheff is CEO of the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education (IMPACT-se). David Andrew Weinberg is the Anti-Defamation League’s Washington Director for International Affairs.
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: Saudi Arabia, Saudi textbooks

Continue viewing...

Houthi leader proposes prisoner exchange of Hamas members detained in Saudi Arabia

Houthi leader offers prisoner exchangeIn a recent address marking the 5-year anniversary of the start of Yemen’s current civil war, the leader of the Houthi movement, Abdel Malik al Houthi, offered to exchange a captured Saudi pilot for Hamas members currently awaiting trial in Saudi Arabia. 
In his speech, Houthi said that he “expresses our strongest condemnation of the arrests of the Hamas members in Saudi Arabia and of their trials.” However, he added that “I am announcing our readiness to completely release one of the Saudi pilots, along with four Saudi officers and soldiers, in exchange for the release of those who were kidnapped from Hamas.” 
Houthi’s statement refers to the two Saudi pilots that were downed over Yemen’s al Jawf Governorate last month. The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen confirmed that the jet “crashed” last month, but reported that its pilots ejected from the aircraft. 
The fate of the pilots was left uncertain. However, if Houthi’s statement is accurate, at least one pilot is still alive. It is unclear where exactly the Houthis reportedly captured the other Saudi soldiers offered for the deal.
Additionally, Houthi refers to the series of arrests in Saudi Arabia targeting Palestinians and Jordanians residing in the kingdom in early 2019. Saudi officials have accused the men of belonging to the Palestinian militant group Hamas. 
Among those detained for allegedly fundraising for Hamas in the kingdom was Muhammad Selah al Khudry, a represenative of Hamas living in Jeddah. 
After Houthi’s statement, Hamas praised the offer saying “We highly value the spirit of brotherhood and sympathy for the Palestinian people… and we express our thanks for this interest and initiative.”
Hamas also renewed its call for Saudi Arabia to release the prisoners by claiming their members did not commit crimes against the kingdom. 
“The Palestinian detainees did not cause harm to the kingdom, and they respected the principles of hospitality in a brother country without compensation or condition. They are not guilty of a crime they did not commit,” the statement read. 
The offer of a prisoner exchange potentially unburdens Hamas of an escalating dispute with a “brother country” who at times provides assistance to the citizens of Gaza. 
Abdel Malik al Houthi’s proposal shows more support and coordination between members of the Iran-led ‘Axis of Resistance’. The ‘axis’ refers to a network of state and non-state actors led by Iran that operates against the United States and its allies in the Middle East and beyond.
Hamas, Lebanese Hezbollah, many Iraqi Shia militias, and others consider themselves part of this ‘axis.’
The Houthi leader has previously coordinated messages with other Iran-backed groups. In several prior speeches, al Houthi has offered his men to Lebanese Hezbollah in the event of a future war with Israel.
In 2017, al Houthi stated “The Yemeni nation is ready to take part in any future confrontation against the Israeli enemy.” A year later, he again repeated this notion and said “If there is a new war with Israel, we will not hesitate to send fighters.”
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: Hamas, Houthi, Saudi Arabia, Yemen

Continue viewing...

Northern Afghan district falls to the Taliban

The Taliban seized control of the district of Yamgan in the northern Afghanistan province of Badakhshan. The district had been under siege for several months before falling to the Taliban today.
Afghan officials said that Yamgan fell to the Taliban “following hours of clashes with security forces that raged after midnight,” TOLONews reported. The Taliban had blocked all roads leading to the district before making its final push.
The Taliban has yet to comment on the fall of Yamgan.
Yamgan has been one of several districts in Badakhshan under constant threat. The Taliban first captured the district on Nov. 18, 2015, and held it up until Sept. 2019, when the Afghan military retook the district. The Taliban did not give up the fight, and redoubled efforts to regain control of Yamgan – successful now six months later.
Security in Badakhshan has deteriorated since the U.S. ended its surge in 2012 and began withdrawing significant numbers of troops. Today, 21 of Badakhshan’s 28 districts are contested, one is controlled by the Taliban, and six are controlled by the Afghan government, according to an ongoing assessment by FDD’s Long War Journal.
The Taliban continues to press its military operations against the Afghan government and security forces, even as U.S. military officers somehow continue to wonder if the attacks are part of the Taliban’s strategy or are being executed by a rogue “splinter.”
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

Continue viewing...

Taliban attacks against Afghan security forces continue unabated

As the U.S. military continues to wonder if Taliban attacks against Afghan security forces are the result of a “splinter” group or part of its official strategy, the Taliban continues to publicize its daily military operations.
At Voice of Jihad, the Taliban’s official website, the Taliban has claimed 405 attacks in the 24 days since it resumed offensive operations following a so-called “reduction in violence” period that was concurrent with the signing of the U.S. – Taliban withdrawal deal. This averages to nearly 17 attacks per day. The number of actual Taliban attacks is likely much higher, as the Taliban does not make public reports of every attack at Voice of Jihad.
Meanwhile, the Taliban has targeted Al Qaeda and allied groups zero times during the same time period. On March 1, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Taliban “would break that relationship [with Al Qaeda] and that they would work alongside of us to destroy, deny resources to and have al-Qaeda depart from that place.” The Taliban has made no such promise, nor has it killed, captured, or expelled a single member of Al Qaeda.

The Taliban operations against Afghan security forces have occurred in 31 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. The Taliban has not claimed any military operations in the provinces of Baymian, Panjshir, and Nuristan.
The number of attacks, the scope of the Taliban’s operations, and the fact that they are published on the group’s official website disproves speculation by General Kenneth McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command. On March 13, McKenzie, in testimony to the Senate Armed Service Committee Testimony, said the following:

So the question is, do the Taliban attacks represent a core strategy of the group, they’re going to continue the attacks?  Or is it a splinter of the group and are they not monolithic?  We’re still assessing that.  If it’s directed from the top, then obviously that’s not a good thing.  Because it shows that they’re not — they not acting in good faith.

Two weeks after McKenzie asked a question that had already been answered by the Taliban, the attacks continue unabated, and the Taliban continues to flaunt them.

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: Al Qaeda, Taliban, Withdrawal Deal

Continue viewing...

Hezbollah derides release of former SLA member into U.S. custody

Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan NasrallahIn a recent speech, Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah blamed U.S. pressure for the release of former South Lebanon Army (SLA) member and American citizen Amer Fakhoury.
Fakhoury, also referred to as the “Butcher of Kiam”, was accused by Hezbollah of torturing prisoners at the Kiam Prison during Israel’s occupation of south Lebanon. After Israel’s unilateral withdrawal in 2000, Fakhoury fled to the U.S. fearing reprisal from Hezbollah for his alleged activities at Kiam.
In late 2019, Fakhoury visited Lebanon and was arrested despite receiving prior assurance from the Lebanese government he would not be detained if he visited the country.
In mid-March a judge ordered his release because the crimes he was accused of occurred more than 10 years ago. After his release Fakhoury was transferred to the American Embassy in Beirut and immediately flown out of the country via a U.S Marine V-22 Osprey.
Nasrallah took to the airwaves soon after Fakhoury’s release and chided the Lebanese government for giving into U.S. pressure.
“The Americans pressured everyone who could have influence on Fakhoury,” Nasrallah charged. “They directly threatened anyone who could hinder his release with sanctions.”  
Furthermore Nasrallah disavowed that Hezbollah had knowledge of a deal between the U.S. and Lebanon’s government.
“We had no knowledge of a deal regarding the release of Amer Fakhoury. What we’re aware of is the lack of any such deal. We were therefore not a part of any deal to secure his release, because no such deal existed to begin with,” he said.
Nasrallah acknowledged that it was suggested that Hezbollah shoot down the U.S. military aircraft transferring Fakhoury. He ultimately deferred on taking military action on the basis that it was not in the interest of Hezbollah and Lebanon.
“Another genius idea was that Hezbollah should have downed the U.S. helicopter that extracted Fakhoury. Would doing that have been in the interests of Lebanon or the Resistance?”
It is unlikely Fakhoury’s release would have been granted without the prior approval of Hezbollah and its allies. Hezbollah’s denial that they were aware that a “deal existed” for the release of Fakhoury absolved it from any responsibility as a “resistance” group. It also allowed Hezbollah to avert any potential fall out for not intervening against the release of an alleged war criminal.
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: Amer Fakhoury, Fakhoury, hezbollah, Nasrallah

Continue viewing...

Islamic State claims assault on Sikh temple in Afghan capital

The Islamic State quickly claimed responsibility for an attack on a Sikh temple and civilian complex in Kabul. The assault occurred early on the morning of Mar. 25, and reportedly led to a prolonged standoff.The Afghan government’s General Command of Police Special Units (GCPSU) was dispatched the scene and performed a “clearance operation,” as upwards of 80 were initially stranded within the temple.
Afghanistan’s Ministry of Interior Affairs reported that at least 25 civilians were killed in the assault, while another eight were wounded.
Amaq News Agency, the Islamic State’s daily reporting arm, claimed responsibility via various social media and online communication applications. Amaq’s short statement can be seen above.
The group’s media team then issued a longer statement, identifying the main terrorist responsible as a man known as Abu Khalid al-Hindi. That nom de guerre indicates that he is likely from India, or India-ruled Kashmir. Indeed, the statement claims the attack was “revenge for the Muslims in Kashmir.”
The Islamic State has a relatively small cadre of loyalists inside Kashmir and has attempted to exploit that conflict for several years.
Both the Afghan government, backed by the U.S. and NATO, as well as the Taliban claim to have dealt severe blows to the Islamic State in eastern Afghanistan. While that is true, there is uncertainty concerning the size of the group’s network in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Despite suffering setbacks, the Islamic State’s Khorasan arm had carried out several attacks in the Afghan capital this year. Until today, those operations caused far fewer casualties than past attacks.
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 attacks in Kabul, Islamic State Khorasan Province, Kabul

Continue viewing...

State designates Iran-backed League of the Righteous as Foreign Terrorist Organization

Qais Khazali (center), the leader of the League of the Righteous, and Akram al Kaabi (center-right), the commander of Harakat al Nujaba, meet outside of Hawija to discuss operations to retake the town.
The U.S. Department of State has added Asaib Ahl al Haq, an Iranian-backed Iraqi Shia terror group also known as “League of the Righteous,” to its list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Additionally, the group’s leader, Qais al Khazali, and his brother, Laith al Khazali, have been listed as Specially Designated Global Terrorists.Both Qais and Laith were in U.S. custody for two years between 2007 and 2009.
The League of the Righteous “and its leaders are violent proxies of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in the press release that announced the designations. “Acting on behalf of their masters in Tehran, they use violence and terror to further the Iranian regime’s efforts to undermine Iraqi sovereignty.”
State’s designation acknowledged the League of the Righteous “is extensively funded and trained by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Qods Force.” Qods Force is the expeditionary arm, the special operations branch of the IRGC tasked with spreading Iran’s Islamic Revolution throughout the world.
According to State, the League of the Righteous “has claimed responsibility for more than 6,000 attacks against U.S. and Coalitions forces since its creation in 2006. AAH has carried out highly sophisticated operations, including mortar attacks on an American base, the downing of a British helicopter, and an attack on the Karbala Provincial Headquarters that resulted in the capture and murder of five American soldiers.”
While the League of the Righteous is responsible for thousands of attacks on U.S. forces, the assault on the Karbala Provincial Joint Communications Center in 2006 was particularly brazen and significant. The operation was plotted with the help of Qods Force as the League of the Righteous fighters who carried out the attack trained in an Iranian mock up facility. The plan was to bring captive American soldiers to Iran.
Qais issued the order to kidnap and, later when the operation hit a roadblock, executed five American soldiers.
Qais, Laith and a Hezbollah military commander known as Musa Ali Daqduq were captured by British commandos in March 2007 during a raid on a compound in Basra, Iraq. Daqduq, who had served as the commander of Hezbollah’s special forces, was tasked by Quds Force to organize, train, and advise what was known at that time as the Mahdi Army Special Groups. These Special Groups were established as an analogue to Lebanese Hezbollah, Iran’s premier proxy in the Middle East. Qais later admitted to Iran’s role in the Shia insurgency, including its support of the Mahdi Army, during interrogations. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Iraqi militant Qais Khazali warned us about Iran. We ignored him.]
Despite their involvement in the deadly Shia insurgency in Iraq, the U.S. military freed Qais and Laith within two years of their capture. The U.S. released Laith and more than 100 League of the Righteous commanders and fighters in June 2009, Qais followed six months later.
The reason given for their release: Qais and company were freed so they could take part in a reconciliation plan. The U.S. military believed that the Khazalis and their Iranian-backed terror group would lay down their arms and join the political process.
In exchange for Qais and his men, the U.S. government secured the release of a British hostage, Peter Moore, and the bodies of three of the four men who were kidnapped with him in the spring of 2007. Moore’s compatriots had been murdered by Khazali’s men; three of the bodies that were returned were riddled with bullet holes, while the fourth was never recovered.
The U.S. military also handed over Daqduq, the Hezbollah special forces commander, to the Iraqi government in 2011 under the promise that he would remain in prison. Daqduq was freed within a year and is believed to be active within Hezbollah’s military organization. State designated Daqduq in late 2012. Qais, Laith, and Daqduq never paid for the kidnapping and murder of the five U.S. soldiers in Karbala or any of the other attacks they had orchestrated against U.S. forces.
Additionally, after their release, Qais and Laith never disbanded the League of the Righteous, renounced violence, or severed ties with Iran. In fact, the League of the Righteous remains one of the premier Iranian-backed militias and has expanded its activities into Syria under the banner of Harakat al Nujaba.
The designations of League of the Righteous and Qais and Laith Khazali are long overdue. Additionally, these designations are symbolic of the failure of the U.S. government to keep known terrorists in custody and prosecute them for their crimes.
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: Asaib Ahl al-Haq, Iran, Iraq, IRGC, League of the Righteous, Qods

Continue viewing...

Generation Jihad: Ep. 2 – Wishcasting in Afghanistan

In a follow up to episode one, hosts Bill Roggio and Tom Joscelyn explain why wishful thinking in Afghanistan has led the U.S. to portray the Taliban as something it is not. True peace is not on the horizon. Meanwhile, Al-Qaeda views the U.S.-Taliban deal as a boon for the jihadists’ cause. Al-Qaeda’s affiliates are already attempting to use the agreement as a framework for gaining legitimacy elsewhere. 

Powered by RedCircle
Subscribe:

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, Generation Jihad, Taliban, Withdrawal Deal

Continue viewing...

Analysis: AQAP’s new emir renews allegiance to Zawahiri, praises Taliban

On Mar. 19, al-Qaeda websites and social media channels distributed a new audio message from Khalid Batarfi, the new emir of AQAP.
Last week, al-Qaeda websites and social media channels shared an audio message from Khalid Batarfi, a U.S.-designated terrorist who was recently named the new emir of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).Batarfi, a longtime al-Qaeda veteran, has a well-established media profile in jihadist circles, as he has regularly commented on current affairs since his escape from a Yemeni prison in 2015. But Batarfi’s latest message is one of his most important yet, because he has inherited the helm of one of al-Qaeda’s most important branches, albeit one that has suffered a string of setbacks.
Batarfi begins his address by reaffirming his and AQAP’s allegiance to Ayman al-Zawahiri, whom he refers to as “our most excellent sheikh and emir.” He reiterates a version of the bayat (oath of allegiance) that is popular among the jihadists.
“I pledge allegiance to you, to listen and obey, during [times of] hardship and ease,” Batarfi says to Zawahiri. The newly named AQAP head says that he and his men will “endure” whatever problems come their way “as a price for this allegiance” and will not dispute Zawahiri’s orders. Batarfi explains that his bayat to Zawahiri is for the sake of waging jihad and for “establishing Allah’s sharia [Islamic law]” in this world. Moreover, his fealty covers “all of the brothers” in AQAP and they will remain “firm” in their pledge, staying on al-Qaeda’s path until “victory is granted by Allah” or they “achieve martyrdom” in service of Allah’s cause. (The title of his address is dedicated to this same motif, martyrdom or victory.)
Batarfi is the third emir of AQAP since it was reborn in early 2009. The first emir, Nasir al-Wuhayshi, served as Osama bin Laden’s aide-de-camp in pre-9/11 Afghanistan and eventually rose to become a senior leader in al-Qaeda’s global network. After Wuhayshi was killed in a June 2015 U.S. drone strike, his comrade Qasim al-Raymi (al-Rimi) was named as his successor. The U.S. finally caught up with Raymi in January of this year. When Raymi took over for Wuhayshi in mid-2015, he quickly renewed his own allegiance to Zawahiri on behalf of AQAP. In his new audio address, Batarfi repeated this same ritual.
Eulogizes Qasim al-Raymi
Indeed, Batarfi eulogizes Qasim al-Raymi at length, passing along his condolences to Zawahiri for the “martyrdom of our sheikh.”
AQAP’s senior leadership ranks have suffered as a result of a sustained espionage campaign. The U.S., Saudis and their allies have repeatedly targeted AQAP’s top figures since 2015. Batarfi claims that his predecessor, al-Raymi, had a “long history of revealing” such plots, as he and others ferreted out spy cells. According to Batarfi, Wuhayshi himself nominated al-Raymi as his successor in his own will, describing al-Raymi as his “beloved friend.” Wuhayshi said that he and al-Raymi shared many “sleepless nights” as the pair worked “to support sharia.” Al-Raymi was a resolute man who did not indulge in “worldly pleasures” and therefore AQAP’s rank-and-file should “listen to him and obey” him, Wuhayshi explained in his will.  
Batarfi projects defiance in the aftermath of al-Raymi’s death, swearing that the jihadists will avenge his death, making America and its allies “miserable.” Batarfi claims that the “martyrdom of leaders” testifies to the “truthfulness of their methodology” and is “a badge of honor” they all hope to achieve. The new AQAP honcho vows to fight on, employing various strategies to harass the jihadists’ enemies.
Lauds the Taliban’s success fighting America
Batarfi warns the ummah (worldwide community of Muslims) against pursuing democracy, arguing that Muslims are still suffering from the policies pursued by some along these lines. He blasts those Muslims who think democratic politics are an appropriate “method,” claiming that such thinking is the work of Satan and a “far cry from the methodology” set forth in the “Holy Book” (Quran) and the “pure sunna.”
By way of contrast, the new AQAP leader points to the success of the Taliban.
Batarfi says the ummah should only call for a “return to the book of Allah and the sunna of His messenger” and continue to wage jihad, while practicing supposedly good morals and “uniting around” proper “scholars” and the mujahideen. The implication is that this is what the Taliban has done. Batarfi claims America and its coalition partners have been forced to submit to the “Afghans and the freemen of the Taliban,” as the mujahideen’s attacks have forced the U.S. into “suing for peace.” America is “hoping to leave Afghanistan under any condition” after suffering years of losses.
Batarfi sees America’s loss in Afghanistan as the fulfillment of a Divine vow, claiming this is what both Allah and His messenger “promised.” Allah has promised land and power to those who stay true to this path, Batarfi claims. And the mujahideen in the Arabian Peninsula, Islamic Maghreb, Levant, Palestine, Somalia and everywhere else “have been patient,” awaiting their victories. Batarfi claims that a widespread belief in jihadism and martyrdom have arisen all across the ummah, as Muslims wage jihad against the “occupying invaders” and “tyrants” oppressing the masses. Allah has demonstrated in Afghanistan that he will break his enemies all across the globe, Batarfi says.
Thus, AQAP is using America’s withdrawal deal with the Taliban as evidence to show that the jihadists can eventually achieve victory. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has claimed that the Taliban agreed to betray al-Qaeda in Afghanistan as part of the accord. The text of the agreement does not say that. Thus far, there is no evidence suggesting the Taliban has turned against al-Qaeda. Meanwhile, like other members of al-Qaeda’s senior leadership, Batarfi sees the deal as a boon for the jihadists’ cause.
Khalid Batarfi was featured in the Taliban’s Dec. 2016 video celebrating the group’s bond with al-Qaeda.
It should be recalled that the Taliban itself has marketed Batarfi as a righteous ideologue. In Dec. 2016, the Taliban produced a video celebrating its bond with al-Qaeda. An extensive clip of Batarfi was featured in the production. Batarfi praised the Taliban for sacrificing its Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan while defending Osama bin Laden and his comrades. He claimed that the Taliban could finally “see [the] light of victory,” as governance according to the “rule of Sharia” is “even stronger in Afghanistan than before.” That is, he predicted that the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate would rise once again.
Praises Shabaab’s role in the “Jerusalem Will Not Be Judaized” campaign
Batarfi also praises Shabaab, al-Qaeda’s branch in East Africa, for conducting a “series” of “operations against the sponsor of infidelity in the region,” America. He points to the attack on the Manda Bay Airfield in Kenya earlier this year and other operations as “proof” that the ummah is acting “like one body” in the war against America and its allies.
Both Shabaab and al-Qaeda’s West African branch, the Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin, or JNIM), have participated in the “Jerusalem Will Not Be Judaized” campaign, which was ordered by Zawahiri. Shabaab has stressed that the raid on the Manda Bay Airfield was conducted under the “direction” of al-Qaeda’s senior leadership.
In his new message, Batarfi says that such raids show the jihadists are part of “one ummah” (another theme employed by Zawahiri), as they supposedly act in concert everywhere across the globe.
Al-Qaeda’s global war
Batarfi ends his talk by asking Allah to accept al-Raymi and two other fallen figures as “martyrs.” He claims that their deaths mark the beginning of a “new era” in which Islam will rise in power once again, with new “victories” on the horizon. Batarfi vows that his deceased comrades will be avenged, but he warns the mujahideen to avoid spilling Muslim blood. Batarfi also says the jihadists will not forget their captives, whether they be male or female.
In closing, Batarfi lists al-Qaeda’s enemies as America, Israel, Russia and Iran, as well as all those who help these nations.  
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, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, AQAP, Ayman al Zawahiri, bayat, Khalid Batarfi, oath of allegiance, Taliban-Al Qaeda, Taliban-Al Qaeda axis, Taliban-Al Qaeda nexus

Continue viewing...

JNIM kills dozens in Mali base attack

Over the weekend, al Qaeda’s Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) claimed Thursday’s deadly raid on a Malian army base in the northern town of Tarkint in the Gao region.
According to Malian officials, at least 29 soldiers were killed in the attack while another 5 were wounded. French outlet RFI reported that the raid progressed under JNIM’s usual modus operandi.
Dozens of jihadists arriving on motorcycles and other vehicles targeted the base from three directions before overwhelming the base.
In JNIM’s version of events, the al Qaeda branch lends little additional information.
However, it states that its men were able to capture several weapons. including DShK heavy machine guns, RPGs, an SPG-9 rocket launcher. Many vehicles were also reportedly taken from the base.
Unconfirmed photos reportedly from the raid appear to confirm these claims, though photos have not been released through JNIM’s official channels as of the time of publishing.
Additionally, the jihadist group frames the assault within its earlier calls for negotiations with the Malian government. JNIM states that as the “Malian government continues to display hesitation and confusion” the jihadists will continue assaults on military targets.
Aligned with its earlier statement, JNIM repeats its prerequisite demand for French withdrawal from Mali before it enters into any talks with the Malian government.
This political move is meant to portray the jihadist group as a populist movement within Mali, which is part of JNIM’s longterm strategy of building popular support among local populations.
Along with an ascending Islamic State branch in the region, al Qaeda’s JNIM continues to mount its own deadly attacks across the Sahel further compounding the already worsening security situation.
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: Gao, Group for Support of Islam and Muslims, JNIM, Mali

Continue viewing...

Al Qassam Brigades warns Israel about prisoners held amidst COVID-19 pandemic

Al Qassam Brigades’ spokesperson Abu ObeidaAl Qassam Brigades warned Israel that it is responsible for the health of militants and activists in its prisons as the COVID-19 virus continues to spread throughout the country.
“We hold the Zionist occupation fully responsible for the life, safety and health of our heroic prisoners,” al Qassam Brigades’ spokesperson Abu Obeida cautioned Israel in a recent statement.
Obeida suggested the group could take action against Israel if prisoners were to be infected with COVID-19.
“The life and safety of the prisoners are a red line and the Zionist enemy must release our prisoners due to their inability to provide a decent life that protects them from epidemics and diseases,” Obeida said.
Furthermore, Obeida affirmed that the leaders of the Joint Operations Room would meet to discuss “appropriate measures” that would be taken if the so-called “red line” was crossed.
Propaganda versus truth
The statements made by Obeida regarding the health of Palestinian militants and activists held in Israeli prisons aren’t new. This type of publication serves several purposes. It sends a message that Palestinian prisoners continue to be a priority for the militant group. It also acts as a reminder to the Israeli government that the group could possibly take action in the form of military operations if the health of Palestinian prisoners were to be compromised by COVID-19.
As previously detailed by FDD’s Long War Journal, statements made by Obeida have usually served as a propaganda tool more than truth.
Obeida’s statement more likely serves as an act of reassurance for prisoners rather than an actual threat of military response by al Qassam Brigades and the other militant groups in the Gaza Strip.
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: Al Qassam Brigades, Gaza, Hamas, Israel

Continue viewing...

Dozens of Afghan security personnel killed in Taliban insider attack

More than 25 Afghan soldiers and policemen were killed in a Taliban attack on an outpost in the southwestern Afghan province of Zabul. Taliban fighters coordinated with police sympathizers to execute the operation.
Provincial officials in Zabul said that the assault on a check post that was jointly manned by the Afghan army and police “involved policemen on the inside working with the attackers,” TOLONews reported.
The Taliban celebrated its operation in Zabul in a statement that was released on Voice of Jihad, its official website. According to the Taliban, “as many as 8 infiltrator Mujahideen opened fire on enemy troops inside the base … killing 22 puppets with corpses left behind, seizing an APC, 1 ranger pickup, 7 PKM machine guns, 5 RPG launchers, 22 rifles along with other equipment as well as freeing 2 prisoner Mujahideen.”
Insider strikes, or strikes where Afghan security personnel turn their weapons on their counterparts or Coalition troops, have bedeviled the Afghan security forces. The Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction reported there were “82 [insider] attacks that caused 257 casualties (172 deaths and 85 injuries)” within the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces during 2019.
The deadly offensive in Zabul takes place as U.S. military officials continue to ponder if the Taliban’s drumbeat of daily attacks is part of the group’s overall strategy or the efforts of a “splinter” cell.
Last week, during a congressional hearing, General Kenneth McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command, said that the military is “still assessing” whether “the Taliban attacks represent a core strategy of the group” or “is it a splinter of the group” executing the operations.
Meanwhile, the Taliban claims nearly 20 assaults per day on Voice of Jihad and has publicly stated that its military operations against the Afghan security forces would continue.
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

Continue viewing...

New ‘League of the Revolutionaries’ warns U.S. troops in Iraq

In a short video released by the newly formed “League of the Revolutionaries,” which is likely a front for another Iranian-backed group in Iraq, a masked fighter warned of future attacks on U.S. troops inside the country. The statement began with a boast that the rockets the group used to attack Camp Taji were the “smallest amount of force the group could use” against U.S. targets in Iraq. The League of Revolutionaries claimed the attack on Camp Taji, which houses U.S. and coalition troops, earlier this month.
The speaker then claimed that the group possesses “long range weapons that could perish you in the land of your spoiled child, Israel.” 
The bold statement suggested the front could strike American-operated bases in Iraq with stronger weapons and has the ability to strike Israel.
The spokesman went on to warn President Trump and the friends of two American soldiers killed at Camp Taji by mimicking Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah’s Jan. 5 speech, which has been lauded by several Iranian-backed groups in the Middle East.
Specifically, the speaker threatened U.S. soldiers that they will “leave vertically before we force them to leave horizontally.” 
That language copied the imagery of Nasrallah’s “T” hand gesture, which was used in the Jan 5 speech. It signifies U.S. soldiers arriving in the region alive (vertically) and leaving deceased (horizontally).
Nasrallah’s speech and subsequent hand gesture came in the wake of the assassination of Iranian Qods Force general Qassem Soleimani. Nasrallah explicitly called for attacks against the US in retaliation during his tirade.
As previously detailed by FDD’s Long War Journal, the “League of the Revolutionaries” is likely a front group for other, more established Iranian proxies in Iraq. The use of a one-off front is a tried-and true-method that allows for plausible deniability. 
Moreover, the League of Revolutionaries’ logo, which mirrors that of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its proxies across the Middle East, calls attention to 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. This includes the kidnapping of an American soldier in 2006 and the kidnapping of five Britons in 2007. 
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, IRGC, League of the Revolutionaries, Nasrallah

Continue viewing...

Houthis report capture of province bordering Saudi Arabia

Houthi fighters enter the government center of Yemen’s al Jawf Governorate.
Following a recent offensive over the last few weeks in Yemen’s northern al Jawf Governorate, the Houthi insurgency has reported that its forces are in ‘full control’ of the area.In a statement released earlier today, Yahya Saree, the Houthi movement’s military spokesman, announced that the insurgents had taken over most of al Jawf except for a few areas closer to the borders with Saudi Arabia.
Those areas, such as the Khub wal Shaaf district, were recently retaken by Yemeni forces of the Saudi-backed coalition. This also includes al Yatma, where the Houthis also recently attempted to assassinate the governor of al Jawf with a ballistic missile.
Despite those areas, the Houthis remain in firm control of al Jawf’s capital, al Hazm – which was captured earlier this month – and its various surrounding districts.
Photos released by the Houthis today also detail the movement’s firm control over the provincial capital.
In separate statements over the last few days, the Houthis have also claimed to have shot down several Saudi F-15s with Fatir-1 anti-aircraft missiles, which were first showcased last year.
Though only one recently claimed downing, which occurred last month, appears to be confirmed.
The Houthi insurgency will now likely turn its attention to the neighboring Ma’rib Governorate, where fierce fighting has taken place over the last few months.
Just today, the Houthis reportedly launched an attack on the town of Sirwah. The insurgents also claimed to have captured a Yemeni military camp near the town, but this has been refuted by the Yemeni forces.
Additionally, the Yemeni military said its men started a counter-offensive against the Houthis in this area.
Coinciding with the push near Sirwah, as many as three Houthi ballistic missiles have also been launched inside Ma’rib in recent days. The missiles reportedly hit inside civilian areas of Ma’rib city, according to local residents and reports.
The Iranian-backed Houthis have routinely used ballistic missiles as part of its military strategy during offensives.
The complete loss of Ma’rib would be a severe blow to the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen and would help solidify Houthi control over much of the country’s north.
Photos released by the Houthis from the city of al Hazm:
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: Houthi, Saudi Arabia, Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, Yemen

Continue viewing...

CENTCOM commander wrongly suggests ‘splinter’ Taliban group carrying out large number of attacks in Afghanistan

The head of U.S. Central Command, General Kenneth McKenzie, suggested that the spate of Taliban attacks throughout Afghanistan may be caused by a Taliban “splinter.” McKenzie’s suggestion is contradicted by the Taliban itself, which claims dozens of daily attacks on its official website.
During his testimony at the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 13, McKenzie said that the Pentagon and CENTCOM were grappling over the question of whether the Taliban’s attacks against Afghan security forces is a “core strategy” of the group or are being executed by rogue “splinter” faction of the Taliban.

So the question is, do the Taliban attacks represent a core strategy of the group, they’re going to continue the attacks?  Or is it a splinter of the group and are they not monolithic?  We’re still assessing that.  If it’s directed from the top, then obviously that’s not a good thing.  Because it shows that they’re not — they not acting in good faith.
Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, March 13, Senate Armed Service Committee Testimony
McKenzie’s puzzlement over the Taliban attacks is curious, as the Taliban itself claims attacks against Afghan forces in its name on a daily bases. The Taliban publishes accounts of the bulk of its military operations at Voice of Jihad, its official website, in five different languages, including English. These reports are featured in its “News” section.
Between March 3 – when the Taliban resumed military operations after a 10-day long “reduction in violence” for the signing of the U.S. – Taliban withdrawal deal – and March 15, the Taliban claimed credit for 247 attacks – for an average of 19 a day.
The number of daily attacks is actually much higher because the Taliban does not report on every military operation. (The Taliban’s Voice of Jihad site is currently down, so updated figures cannot be readily obtained.)
So far, the attacks have spanned 28 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces – a key indicator that the operations are not the result of a rogue Taliban commander, but are part of the Taliban’s strategy to put pressure on the Afghan security forces across the country.
McKenzie’s “splinter” idea echoes that of his boss, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, who suggested that the Taliban’s resumption of full scale military operations against Afghan security forces was being carried out by Taliban “hard-liners” who were operating outside of the chain of command.
McKenzie, Esper and a host of U.S. officials and generals have somehow been searching for answers to a question that the Taliban already answered. Immediately after signing a withdrawal deal with the U.S., the Taliban’s official spokesman made clear that the agreement did not stop it from attacking Afghan forces. There is nothing in the text of the agreement that calls for the Taliban to continue the “reduction in violence.”
The Taliban has since simply lived up to the letter of the agreement.
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

Continue viewing...

Al-Qaeda lauds Taliban’s great ‘victory’ over America and allies

Al-Qaeda continues to praise Taliban founder Mullah Omar, calling him the “Emir of the Believers,” a title given to his successors as well.
Al-Qaeda’s general command (or senior leadership) has released a three–page statement praising the Taliban’s “great victory” over America and its allies in Afghanistan. This triumph was enshrined in the Feb. 29 withdrawal accord signed in Doha, according to the jihadists.Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claims the Taliban agreed to “break” with al-Qaeda, while helping the U.S. to “destroy” Ayman al-Zawahiri’s organization in Afghanistan. The text of the written agreement doesn’t not call for that. Instead, the Taliban has supposedly agreed to prevent al-Qaeda and others from using Afghan soil to plot attacks against the U.S. and its allies — a promise the group has long made, but failed to keep. The Taliban’s political delegation also agreed to three provisions stipulating that the group would prevent terrorists who threaten the U.S. from operating inside Afghanistan. But the terms of those same provisions are vague, while no verification or enforcement mechanisms are set forth in the text released late last month.
Al-Qaeda’s new statement doesn’t indicate that a real break is forthcoming. The group continues to refer to Haibatullah Akhunzada, the Taliban’s top leader, as the “Emir of the Faithful” — an honorific implying that Akhunzada could one day rule as a caliph for all Muslims. Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s global emir, has sworn his own personal fealty to Akhunzada. Thus far, Akhundzada has not disavowed Zawahiri’s oath of loyalty (bayat).
Moreover, al-Qaeda calls on all Afghans and mujahideen to bolster the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan — a totalitarian regime the jihadists have been fighting to resurrect since 2001.
Mullah Omar’s promise
In its new statement, Al-Qaeda’s general command reminds readers of Mullah Omar’s defiance in the face of American pressure in late 2001. Al-Qaeda’s senior leadership says Allah has fulfilled the word of the “Emir of the Believers Mullah Muhammad Omar,” who said: “Allah has promised us victory, and Bush has promised us defeat. The world will see which of these promises will be fulfilled.” (Al-Qaeda has used versions of this quote in its messaging previously.)
The statement’s authors continue by praising Allah for showing the “entire world” the Taliban’s “historic victory,” with the U.S. being forced “to withdraw its occupation” forces from Afghanistan. The U.S. was made to “accept the demands” of the mujahideen in the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan by signing an agreement to “end the occupation and withdraw all occupation” forces from Afghanistan. 
Al-Qaeda’s general command sends its “congratulations” to the current “Emir of the Believers,” Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, as well as all of his “brethren among the mujahideen” of the Islamic Emirate. The authors also extend their congratulations to the Afghan people and the entire “victorious” unmah (global community of Muslims), saying America and its allies have been vanquished in a “humiliating defeat.”
The statement includes several references to the fact that the withdrawal agreement was signed by a “Republican” administration in the U.S.  Allah supposedly waited to confirm the mujahideen’s victory until during the time of the “Republican Trump administration,” which is allegedly known for its hatred of “Islam and the Muslims.”
Al-Qaeda crows that the U.S., with its superior military, aircraft and equipment, was still defeated by a “small number of stalwart believers” over the course three successive presidential administrations.Calls to support the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan
Ayman al-Zawahiri and his comrades in al-Qaeda’s general command call on all “scholars,” wealthy donors, and others “to support the Islamic Emirate” in its quest to found a “nation of Islam ruled by the noble sharia of Allah.” 
Muslims “brothers” elsewhere should “emulate” the Islamic Emirate and the Afghan people, al-Qaeda advises, because “there is no path to liberation” from foreign tyranny and oppression except through the “noble sharia of Allah” and obedience to him. Al-Qaeda’s general command says Muslims should “unite on the word of monotheism,” while waging a “true jihad for Allah.” 
Addressing the “honorable people of Afghanistan,” al-Qaeda’s general command advises everyone to unite under “the word of monotheism” and the “wise” leaders of Islamic Emirate, while also obeying the Taliban’s top men. Together, the people should serve a “just Islamic regime” that is ruled according to Islamic law and avoid “internal division.” The people should devote all of their efforts to “building and developing the Muslim land of Afghanistan,” which “has been violated” by decades of war. 
Addressing the “mujahideen in proud Afghanistan,” Al-Qaeda’s senior leadership reminds them that all are ethically bound by the withdrawal agreement with the U.S., as only the “Crusaders and their agents” are allegedly in the “habit” of breaching accords. The mujahideen should be “careful” and “hold onto” their weapons, because the “infidels” are looking to attack.
Al-Qaeda’s call for all to abide by the agreement between the U.S. and the Taliban obviously cuts against the idea that the Taliban is going to vanquish al-Qaeda from Afghanistan, as Secretary Pompeo claims.
Furthermore, al-Qaeda’s senior men advise people to “join the training camps under the leadership of the Islamic Emirate,” and learn from “the people of religion” wherever they are found.
Towards the end of the statement, al-Qaeda’s general command says its “advice” is the same as the “advice of the Emir of the Believers Haibatullah Akhundzada,” who released a victory message after the withdrawal agreement was signed. In short, the Afghan people and mujahideen should be thankful for their “decisive victory,” while remaining humble. 
The “mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate should” make efforts to more tightly “organize their ranks,” so that they can grow in power and achieve their “ultimate goal,” which is the establishment of an “Islamic regime” capable of serving the interests of the people and protecting them against all possible dangers. 
The statement concludes with a prayer for Allah to “guide” all of “our people” in Afghanistan, Palestine, the Islamic Maghreb, East Africa, the Levant, and all of the Muslim lands elsewhere. 
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, Al Qaeda – Taliban, Al Qaeda im Afghanistan, Al Qaeda’s General Command, Al Qaeda-Taliban axis, Haibatullah Akhundzada, Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Mullah Omar

Continue viewing...

Jihadists discuss coronavirus, offer advice

Turkistan Islamic Party spokesman as seen in its video about COVID-19.
As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread across the world, jihadist groups have offered their own take on the situation and have even offered advice on how to mitigate its effect.Both the al Qaeda-linked Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) and the Islamic State have publicly commented on the virus.
In a video released late last month, the TIP, a predominately Uighur jihadist organization, framed the coronavirus outbreak in China as “punishment from God” for the state’s oppression of the Uighur minority.
“They [the Chinese government] destroyed the mosques and changed them to places of dancing, vices and insolence, they tramped upon the Qur’an and burned them, and transgressed upon the honor and raped the women,” the TIP spokesman states.
As a result, the speaker alleges, “the revenge from God came against these criminals and he sent upon them the deadly coronavirus.” The jihadist spokesman also adds that “the entire world knows that what happened in China is merely part of the punishment from God.”
In addition to providing an overview of the virus’ outbreak, the group also chides the Chinese state for allowing the consumption of “meat prohibited by the Qur’an.”
It is thought that the current worldwide pandemic possibly originated in a wet market inside Wuhan where wild animals are sold alongside livestock. The TIP echoes this information in its production.
The TIP’s video ends with the speaker praying that “this outbreak be a reason for the destruction of the atheist Chinese state.”
Although the TIP largely operates in Syria and Afghanistan alongside various al Qaeda-linked outfits, the group’s long-stated goal is to build an Islamic state within the Chinese province of Xinjiang. A large portion of its propaganda is directed towards the Chinese state.
Islamic State offers advice
While not explicitly naming coronavirus in its most recent issue of the weekly Al Naba newsletter, the Islamic State does offer “Sharia guidance on dealing with epidemics.”
Utilizing several ahadith [sayings of the Prophet Muhammad] to emphasize their points, the group offers basic advice such telling members to “cover your mouths when yawning and coughing” and to “wash your hands before dipping them into containers.”
Some of the Islamic State’s advice even mirrors that of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by advocating for a form of social distancing and quarantining.
“The necessity for the healthy to not enter the land of the epidemic and for those who are sick to not leave from it,” the group’s guidelines state.
The Islamic State also downplays the severity of the situation and attempts to assuage fears that may be within the group’s ranks.
The jihadist group tells it followers that “it is necessary to believe that diseases are not infectious by themselves but are of the order of God and his capability.” Moreover, it orders its supporters to “trust in God and seek refuge in him from the diseases.”
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: china, coronavirus, COVID19, ISIS, Islamic State, Syria, Turkistan Islamic Party

Continue viewing...

Popular Resistance Committees in Gaza commemorates former Secretary General Zuhair al Qaisi

“Among the believers are men true to their pledge before Allah. Some of them have fulfilled their vows, and some are still waiting, and never wavering.”
On March 9, the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) published a statement commemorating its former leader, Secretary General Zuhair al Qaisi, and one of its military commanders, Mohammed Ahmed al Hanani.
In its commemoration, the PRC lauded al Qaisi, who was “devoted to a resistance approach that formed a milestone in the Palestinian struggle.” It “was an approach that made armed resistance and direct and continuous engagement with the Zionist enemy a high priority for the Palestinian people in their struggle with the Zionist project.”
The death of al Qaisi and its aftermath
Back on March 9, 2012, al Qaisi was traveling with al Hanani in the Gaza City neighborhood of Tel al Hawa when their vehicle was struck by a missile fired by an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) aircraft. Both were killed by the airstrike and another passenger was seriously injured.
His death was viewed by militant factions of the Gaza Strip as a violation of the terms of a ceasefire agreement made during Operation Cast Lead.
A decision was made to retaliate. The resulting operation was primarily led by Saraya al Quds (Palestinian Islamic Jihad) and Nasser Salah al Din Brigades (Popular Resistance Committees).
According to Saraya al Quds, the group launched Grads, 107mm rockets and mortars at targets inside Israel.
The group claimed to have used for the first time a mobile rocket launcher that gave them the capability to launch multiple rockets in a single salvo. They also claimed to successfully attack targets 45 km inside of Israel with locally manufactured rockets – a feat that had not been previously achieved by the militant group.
Martyrdom banner of al Qaisi (top right) and other militants belonging to Saraya al Quds and other factions.
The clash between militant groups and the IDF continued for several days until a ceasefire was reached via Egyptian mediation. In total, sixteen militants were killed, fourteen belonging to PIJ’s Saraya al Quds.
The decision to take out al Qaisi
According to the IDF, the decision to take out al Qaisi was made in response to several attacks that occurred in southern Israel on Aug. 11, 2011.
Militants from the Nasser Salah al Din Brigades allegedly crossed into Egypt from Gaza a month prior to train and prepare for an attack on Israeli citizens and IDF soldiers in southern Israel.
On the day of the attack, the militants allegedly crossed into southern Israel from Egypt and began a coordinated assault. A bus, an IDF Jeep, and construction workers building a security fence at the Egyptian border were targeted.
In the attacks, six Israeli civilians and two IDF soldiers were reportedly killed, including several Egyptian soldiers who were caught in a crossfire between IDF soldiers and the attackers.
The Popular Resistance Committees claimed they were aware of Israel’s intent to kill al Qaisi. The PRC’s spokesperson, Abu Mujahid, stated the group met with Egyptian intelligence officials a month prior to the assassination and were warned that al Qaisi’s life was in danger. Despite the warning, the group did not take enough precaution to avert the death of their leader.
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: al Qaisi, Gaza, IDF, Israel, PIJ, Popular Resistance Committees, PRC, Saraya al Quds

Continue viewing...

Introducing: Generation Jihad, a new podcast from FDD’s Long War Journal

Listen to the trailer:

Powered by RedCircle
Subscribe:

FDD’s Long War Journal is launching a new podcast, “Generation Jihad.”
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 we’ll bring 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.
So, subscribe to “Generation Jihad” today.  You can find us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, YouTube, or anywhere else you listen to your shows. Our first episode will be launching next week.
We hope you’ll join us.
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, hezbollah, Islamic State

Continue viewing...

Houthis increase use of suicide drone boats in recent weeks

Photo released by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen on Mar. 4 showing the new fishing boat design for the Houthi suicide drone boat program.
Over the last few weeks, Yemen’s Houthi rebels have increased their usage of explosive-laden drone boats. The geographic scope of this threat has also expanded as the Houthis have recently exported the tactic to the Arabian Sea.Beginning on Feb. 23, the Saudi-led coalition reported that its ships in the Red Sea intercepted an explosive-laden drone boat (or ‘suicide’ drone boat) attempting to target an unspecified ship near Hodeidah.
A few weeks later on Mar. 3, the Saudi coalition reported the interception of a pack of suicide drone boats attempting to target an oil tanker near the port town of Nishtun in the Arabian Sea. While the attack failed, it represented several shifts in this tactic.
The failed attack represents the first known instance of the tactic being used by the Houthis outside of the Red Sea. Given the distance from Houthi-controlled territory, it is not immediately clear where the boats were launched from.
Additionally, the Mar. 3 attempt also marked the first use of a new design in the Houthi drone boat program. As H.I Sutton notes in Forbes, the new design largely resembles normal fishing boats. This is a change from prior types where in the Houthis utilized fast-moving craft like the so-called “blow fish” design.
Out of the four drone boats that approached the oil tanker, only one reportedly contained explosives. By utilizing a pack of these drones disguised as fishing boats, this makes it harder for ships to detect a threat.
Moreover, hiding the explosives in just one drone may make it harder to determine which boat poses the most danger.
And on Mar. 7, the Saudi coalition stated it destroyed six suicide drone boats in the harbor of as-Salif in several airstrikes. As part of a wider campaign in the region, the Saudis also claimed to have destroyed drone boat and naval mine assembly plants in the vicinity.
This is not the first time the Saudis have reported airstrikes on Houthi boats in the town. Last June, the coalition reported it destroyed 9 suicide drone boats in the waters off of as-Salif. Saudi officials commented that the boats “intended to target international shipping.”
Houthi naval mines
Houthis are not only employing the use of suicide drone boats in the Red Sea. Late last month, several naval mines were also intercepted and destroyed. On Feb. 11, Yemeni forces dismantled 7 naval mines off the coast of Yemen’s Hajjah Governorate. On Feb. 23, three mines were destroyed in the Bab al Mandeb strait.
Houthi-placed naval mines are a common tactic used by the insurgent group in the Red Sea. Earlier last month, three Egyptian fisherman were killed by one of these mines.
As of Feb. 23, at least 150 naval mines have been dismantled in the Red Sea according to the Saudi coalition.
Despite being a lesser focus of the Houthi military apparatus, and underreported in the media, naval attacks conducted by the insurgent movement constitute a real threat to shipping in the southern Red Sea and now potentially the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Aden.
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: Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, Houthi, Red Sea, Saudi Arabia, Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, Yemen

Continue viewing...

Al Qaeda’s West African branch seeks French withdrawal, then negotiations

Al-Qaeda’s branch in West Africa, Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM, or the “Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims”), has released a two-page statement setting forth its position on negotiations with the Malian government. If French and other supposed “occupation” authorities are ejected from the country, then the jihadists will sit down for talks.JNIM’s position is eerily similar to the Taliban’s stance in talks with the U.S. The Taliban agreed to a withdrawal deal with American representatives on Feb. 29, but refused to engage in “intra-Afghan talks” until the U.S. had set a timetable for withdrawing all of its and NATO’s forces. Of course, such a withdrawal greatly increases the jihadists’ chances of success.
JNIM, like the Taliban, seeks to establish an Islamic emirate in Mali and the surrounding countries. France intervened in 2013, after JNIM’s predecessor groups, operating as part of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s (AQIM) network, seized much of Mali and began laying the groundwork for their jihadist regime.
Formed in 2017, JNIM is openly loyal to AQIM’s leadership, Ayman al-Zawahiri and the Taliban’s emir.
Al-Qaeda portrays itself as a populist movement
The two-page statement released by JNIM’s media arm, az-Zallaqa, is addressed to “our Muslim brothers [in] the land of Mali.” It is titled, “Regarding the Calls for Negotiations,” and was released in both Arabic and English.
JNIM attempts to capitalize on popular discontent, with the statement’s authors writing that they’ve “followed” the peoples’ “massive marches,” “angry protests,” and “steadfast sit-ins asking for the exit of the French occupiers and all kinds of invaders — whether they are under the cover of the European Union or what is called the United Nations — from this good land,” Throughout the message, JNIM labels France’s involvement an “occupation,” arguing that foreign interference, and not the jihadists’ war, is the true source of widespread anger.
The statement’s populist motif is evident. JNIM lauds the “glorious people” across all of Malian society, from all ages and social strata, claiming that that have “become more aware, like the other Muslim peoples who rose against the treacherous alliance of invaders and tyrants.” The organization blames France and its allies entirely for the “seven lean years” since 2013, laying responsibility for the deaths of “thousands of youths” solely at Western feet — while ignoring the toll of the jihadists’ own attacks.
Although the message is peppered with benign, liberal-sounding phrases — including words such as “free societies,” “freedom,” “dignity” and “noble concept of politics,” “right for self-determination,” and “liberty” — the authors cannot completely hide their intentions. “All good things are in the Shari’ah of our Lord,” JNIM writes, thereby reiterating the commitment to implementing Islamic law across the land. This is also the Taliban’s chief goal in Afghanistan. JNIM men add that their statement was crafted in such a manner that it “does not disagree with the Shari’ah of our Exalted Lord.”
JNIM’s leaders say they “have heard” the peoples’ “repeated” requests for the Bamako government to hold negotiations and dialogue with the mujahideen, because you care for the trial imposed on us with the Crusader French occupiers to end.” The al-Qaeda jihadists allege that a “corrupt political class” has assisted foreign forces as they “divide and conquer” and “pit the tribes against one another.”
Thus, JNIM claims to represent the “Muslim people,” writing that it is willing to act in such a manner that the jihadists “extend the role of affection between us and other brothers and sons.”
“No pre-conditions” — except one
Within this selective, populist framing, JNIM’s leaders say they are will to talk to the Malian government with “no pre-conditions.” But that isn’t really true.
“There can be no talking about negotiations under the shade of occupation, before the departure of all French forces and their followers from Mali as a whole, before it halts its aggression and its overt and covert interference in our affairs, just as we do not get involved in their affairs,” the statement reads.
JNIM demands that the Malian government, if it is seriously interested in serving “the interest of the Malian people,” would side with the people “in their legitimate pursuit of freedom from direct occupation.” JNIM further insists that the government “withdraw its formal invitation” for the “entry” of French and other forces, declaring “openly an end to the presence of Barkhane and MIUSMA troops on their territories.”
“Only then will you, our proud people, find us to be the one who cares most about peace, stability, progress, and improvement of your living conditions in all aspects of life such as health, education, housing, and employment opportunities,” JNIM’s leadership claims. “It is then that we will respond to any call to negotiations with the Bamako government, because that will serve the country and the subjects.”
Al-Qaeda seeks jihadist governance
AQIM and its subordinate groups, including JNIM, have long sought to establish a jihadist government in Western Africa. Al-Qaeda correspondence found by Rukmini Callimachi, then of the Associated Press and now of The New York Times, shows that AQIM considered multiple strategies for building an al-Qaeda style government. As FDD’s Long War Journal has written previously, one especially important document for understanding al-Qaeda’s thinking is a letter written by AQIM’s emir, Abdulmalek Droukdel, to the shura council of Ansar Dine, which AQIM used as its local face. Ansar Dine’s leader, Iyad Ag Ghaly, went on to lead JNIM. Ansar Dine merged with other al-Qaeda groups to form JNIM in 2017.
Like Osama bin Laden, Droukdel surmised that Western forces could quickly topple any jihadist state. So he was concerned with building local support for the jihadists’ efforts, such that the new entity could overcome the many hurdles it would face.
Droukdel concluded that AQIM had “two missions” and combining them created a “true dilemma.” AQIM wanted to both preserve the “Azawad Islamic project,” meaning the effort to build an Islamist state, and also continue its “global jihadi project.” The latter was a reference to AQIM’s commitment to carrying out terrorist operations throughout the region.
Droukdel and his advisors came up with two proposals — both of which were intended to mask al-Qaeda’s plans, so as to avoid international scrutiny as much as possible while building local legitimacy. In the first scenario, AQIM would subordinate itself to the local ruler. AQIM would “be under the emirate of Ansar Dine” such that AQIM’s “emir would follow their emir” and AQIM’s “opinion would follow their opinion.” This would be the case for all “internal activity,” meaning “all activity connected to participating in bearing the responsibilities of the liberated areas.” But all “external activity” connected to the “global jihad…would be independent of them (Ansar Dine)” and AQIM “would ensure that none of that activity or its repercussions is attributed to them [Ansar Dine], as care must be taken over negative impacts on the project of the state.”
FDD’s Long War Journal assesses that this is precisely the same model employed by the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. So it is no accident that AQIM and JNIM have considered pursuing this same course.
In Droukdel’s “second proposal,” some of al Qaeda’s mujahideen “would be set aside and put under the complete control of the emir of Ansar Dine to participate in bearing the burden of running the affairs of the liberated cities.” The remaining al Qaeda members would be “completely independent of Ansar Dine and its activity would be limited to jihadi action outside the region.”
AQIM came up with these plans before France interrupted its state-building project in 2013. But JNIM is following a version of these plans, seeking to further embed itself within the local fabric while also openly embracing al-Qaeda’s global jihadist ideology.
Al-Qaeda has long approved of negotiating with “apostates”
Although it may seem odd that an al-Qaeda group would be willing to negotiate with the Malian government, the organization’s jurisprudence has long allowed for flexibility in this regard.
For instance, files recovered in Osama bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound show that AQIM considered a truce with the Mauritanian government. AQIM referred the matter to bin Laden’s senior lieutenants and they helped draft the truce’s terms. In exchange for freedom to operate, al-Qaeda would refrain from conducting terrorist attacks inside Mauritania itself. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Osama Bin Laden’s Files: Al Qaeda considered a truce with Mauritania.]
After the U.S. government released that set of files in 2016, Abu Hafs al-Mauritani, a senior al-Qaeda ideologue in pre-9/11 Afghanistan, told the press that AQIM had in fact reached an accommodation with the Mauritanian government.
Therefore, al-Qaeda has long been willing to use negotiations — even with so-called “apostate” governments — to advance its interests in Africa.
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, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Al Qaeda in West Africa, Al-Qaeda in Mali, AQIM, Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin, Jamaat Nusrat al Islam wal Muslimeen, JNIM, Mali

Continue viewing...

Since agreement with U.S., Taliban has attacked Afghan forces in 27 of 34 provinces

The Taliban has launched attacks in against Afghan security forces in 27 of the country’s 34 provinces since it signed an agreement with the U.S. that facilitates the withdrawal of American troops.
Many of these operations are not “small, low-level attacks,” as General Mark Milley, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff characterized them last week.
The Taliban has now claimed credit for 147 attacks since resuming offensive operations against Afghan security forces on March 3, just three days after signing what many have wrongly characterized as a “peace agreement.”
That reported number of attacks – and percentage of provinces hit – may actually be on the low end.
The Taliban claimed credit for those attacks in statements released on Voice of Jihad, its official website which is published in English, Dari, Pashto, Urdu, and Arabic. This number is merely a subset of the attacks carried out by the Taliban; these are only the attacks the Taliban chose to publicize. Note that while the Taliban often exaggerates the result of its operations, it rarely lies about the attacks themselves.
The Taliban operations have occurred nationwide, in 27 of the country’s 34 provinces, with the exception of Baymian, Daykundi, Ghor, Nuristan, Panjshir, Samangan, and Takhar provinces.
These expansive operations are being not carried out by what U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper characterized last week as Taliban “hard-liners” who were failing to honor a reduction in violence agreement. In fact, the Taliban’s official spokesmen has stated that the group was not bound to maintain a reduction in violence, and vowed to resume attacks against Afghan forces. They have done just that. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, U.S. military perplexed by Taliban living up to letter of agreement.]
Rather, the Taliban’s pattern of operations is clear evidence of a systematic effort by the group to resume violence across the country and put additional pressure on an already overstretched Afghan military and police.
Based on the Taliban’s claimed attacks, Helmand remains the most violent province, followed by Balkh, Kandahar, Kunduz and Nangarhar. These five provinces have consistently seen the most violence in Afghanistan.
Downplaying the Taliban’s military operations
Last week, General Milley downplayed the Taliban attacks as largely inconsequential while testifying to the Senate Armed Services Committee. The Taliban was, per its agreement with the U.S., not attacking American forces, but only Afghan forces.
Milley said the Taliban violence consisted of “small, low-level attacks out at checkpoints, etc.,”
“Of significance: There’s no attacks on 34 provincial capitals; there’s no attacks in Kabul; there’s no high-profile attacks; there’s no suicide bombers; there’s no vehicle-born suicide [bombs]; no attack against U.S. forces; no attack against the coalition,” Milley optimistically noted. “There’s a whole laundry list of these things that aren’t happening.”
However, based on the Taliban reports, the group has conducted several significant ambushes, firefights and roadside bombings against Afghan forces in nine provincial capitals: Farah City, Gardez, Ghazni, Jalalabad, Kunduz City, Lashkar Gah, Maiden Shahr, Pul-i-Khurmi, and Tarin Kot.
While these attack may seem less than high profile, they are no less deadly to the beleaguered Afghan security forces. Additionally, as FDD’s Long War Journal has noted for years, the Taliban has focused much of its fighting in Afghanistan’s rural districts to position itself to attack Afghan forces after the U.S. military withdrawals.
The Taliban effectively controls districts that surround several provincial capitals, as well as the roadways that lead into these capitals. Farah City, Ghazni City, Kunduz City, Lashkar Gah, Maimana, and Tirin Kot are all essentially surrounded by 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: Afghanistan, Taliban

Continue viewing...

Taliban religious decree calls for its emir to rule ‘Islamic government’ in Afghanistan

Image from Voice of Jihad.The Taliban has issued a religious decree, or fatwa, calling for an “Islamic government” to be formed in Afghanistan. This Islamic government is to be led by Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, its current emir, and “lawful ruler” of Afghanistan. The Taliban fatwa says the group “shall continue waging armed jihad” until it establishes the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
The fatwa flies in the face of the hopes of U.S., Afghan and Western officials who maintain that the Taliban will participate in an inclusive democratic government, or agree to some other long-term, power-sharing arrangement. However, as FDD’s Long War Journal has reported for well over a decade, the Taliban has been very clear that the goal of its insurgency is to regain control of Afghanistan and impose its rule.
The statement was released on the Pashto version of Voice of Jihad, the Taliban’s official website, on Mar. 5, just five days after the Taliban signed an agreement securing the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan. Voice of America first reported on the fatwa. FDD’s Long War Journal has obtained a translation of the Taliban’s religious decree.
“The agreement with the United States does not alter the status of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s supreme leader as the lawful ruler of Afghanistan,” the Taliban ruling reads. The Taliban refers to itself as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the name of the group that ruled most of Afghanistan from 1994 to 2001.
Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada “has an Islamic duty to establish an Islamic government after foreign occupation troops exit the country,” the Taliban ruling insists. “In the presence of a legal emir [Haibatullah] there cannot be another ruler of Afghanistan.”
The Taliban notes that a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan will not end its “armed jihad,” and that it must continue fighting to establish an “Islamic government ruled by an emir.” From the Taliban fatwa:

“As this 19-year jihad against the foreign occupation was waged under the command of a legal emir, the termination of occupation agreement does not mean that his [Haibatullah’s] rule is absolved. The mujahideen must work to establish an Islamic government ruled by an emir. That obligation is the next step after U.S. and its allies troops leave.”
“Until the occupation is completely severed from its roots and an Islamic government formed, the mujahideen [Taliban] shall continue waging armed jihad and exerting efforts for the implementation of Islamic rule.”

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid attempted to downplay the fatwa to Voice of America, claiming it was merely “the opinion of one of the group’s religious scholars” and not the official policy of the group.
However, the Taliban does not publish information on Voice of Jihad that contradicts its official position, particularly with respect to something so important as the issue of governance and its emir. FDD’s Long War Journal has monitored Taliban propaganda at Voice of Jihad for well over a decade and has yet to encounter reports contradicting the group’s official position.
The Mar. 5 fatwa is entirely consistent with the Taliban’s past statements, all published on Voice of Jihad, concerning the shape of a future government in Afghanistan, as well as the meaning of the withdrawal of U.S. forces. Earlier this year, the Taliban admitted the so-called peace talks with the U.S. were all about “the withdrawal of their forces.”
The Taliban has repeatedly said that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is the true representative of the Afghan people. It has said it has not sacrificed so much “for the sake of some silly ministerial posts or a share of the power.” In other words, it refuses to join an Afghan government that it deems “un-Islamic.” From Voice of Jihad, Jan. 28, 2016 [emphasis ours]:

The Islamic Emirate has not readily embraced this death and destruction for the sake of some silly ministerial posts or a share of the power. On the contrary they epitomize the nation’s hopes and aspirations for a just and peaceful government that will strive to build our beloved nation on the basis of Islamic law, social justice and national interests.
The people of Afghanistan readily sacrifice their sons to achieve this objective. And the Emirate – as the true representative of our people – will not end its peaceful and armed endeavors until we have achieved this hope of Afghanistan.

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

Continue viewing...

Islamic State claims two recent attacks in Kabul

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for yesterday’s assault on a memorial ceremony held in honor of Abdul Ali Mazari, an ethnic Hazara political leader who was killed by the Taliban in 1995. Dozens were killed or wounded when terrorists struck the proceedings with rockets and other small arms.In statements and a photo, the Islamic State identified the two jihadists who were purportedly responsible as Ahmad al-Tajiki and Abdul Rahman al-Muhajir. Obviously, the first nom de guerre indicates that he is an ethnic Tajik, while the second means that the terrorist is a foreign fighter. In addition to the photo seen above, which was disseminated by the Islamic State’s media team, the group also produced a statement and a report by its Amaq News Agency.
Abdullah Abdullah, a political opposition leader, was in attendance when the raid started. He escaped, but at least 32 others perished, while more than 80 people were wounded.
The Islamic State attacked the same ceremony last year, killing at least three people and wounding approximately 19 more. The jihadists relied on mortars and rockets in that operation, claiming afterwards that their targets were “Rafidi mushirkin,” meaning Shiite polytheists. Abdullah Abdullah was speaking to the crowd when mortars fell during that barrage as well. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Islamic State launches mortars at memorial service in Kabul.]
The Islamic State focuses much of its terror in Afghanistan and elsewhere on Shiite civilians, hoping to stoke sectarian tensions to further fuel its Sunni jihad. The group’s statements on yesterday’s assault also referred to the Shiite victims in a derogatory manner.
The Taliban quickly denied responsibility. The Taliban, including the Haqqani Network, is quite capable of pulling off such raids, or even more devastating bombings and assaults on the Afghan capital. Currently, however, the group is waiting for America to withdraw more or all of its forces and is focusing its operations in more rural areas during the meantime.
Still, there is often some uncertainty regarding the identity of the culprits. While the Taliban and ISIS are currently at loggerheads, especially in eastern Afghanistan, Taliban commanders and fighters have defected to ISIS and vice versa.
The Islamic State also claimed responsibility for a smaller operation in Kabul on Feb. 27, when a bomb attached to a bicycle was detonated in the Sixth Police District. At least one civilian was killed, while ten or more were wounded. The jihadists said there were 30 Shiite casualties, though that seems to have been an exaggeration.
The Afghan arm of the so-called caliphate has undoubtedly suffered a string of setbacks at the hands of the U.S. and Afghan forces, as well as the Taliban. But there is ambiguity concerning the overall strength of the Islamic State’s Khorasan arm.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani claimed earlier this year that the organization had been “obliterated” in eastern Afghanistan. But assuming the recent attack in Kabul was in fact the Islamic State’s work, then the group has maintained at least some residual capacity.
The Afghan Ministry of Interior Affairs claims that dozens of ISIS fighters surrendered to security forces in Kunar in recent days. It is not clear how many remain, as publicly available estimates vary.
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: ISIS, ISIS attacks in Kabul, Islamic State, Islamic State Khorasan Province, Kabul, Thomas Joscelyn

Continue viewing...

Uzbek jihadist group congratulates Taliban for ‘victory’ in Afghanistan

Katibat Imam al Bukhari (KIB), an Uzbek jihadist group that operates in both Afghanistan and Syria, has sent a congratulation letter to the Taliban for its recent deal with the United States. The jihadist group declares this as a ‘victory’ for the Taliban.
The letter is dated Feb. 29 and is penned by Abu Yusuf al Muhajir, the leader of KIB’s Syrian wing.
Abu Yusuf begins by saying that “the US and NATO forces, who claim to be divinely human and claim divinity on earth…are despised, degraded, and [have] recognized the defeat of their crusade.”
Muhajir continues by saying that the “Americans considered them [the Taliban] naive and helpless, but they are powerful by the promise of God.” The jihadist leader then turns to extol the Taliban and its former leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar.
“Let us remember some of the milestones and successes of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan [the Taliban],” al Muhajir says. “Mullah Omar did not hesitate at all when he received the news that America had attacked Afghanistan.”
The jihadist commander then cites Mullah Omar’s famous quote “God has promised us victory and America has promised us defeat, so we shall see which of the two promises will be fulfilled.”
Discussing the bombing of Afghanistan and the arrests of several Taliban leaders, Muhajir chides the United States that this “did not stop the implementation of Sharia.” Indeed, he goes on to extol the Taliban for “not bending” to US forces.
Muhajir ends the letter by congratulating the Ummah [worldwide Islamic community] for the Taliban’s ‘victory’ before signing the letter as “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan – Katibat Imam al Bukhari.”
The group, which publicly swore allegiance to the Taliban in 2014, has openly identified itself as part of the Taliban’s claimed state since 2018.
Background on Katibat Imam al Bukhari
Prior to Muhajir, KIB in Syria was led by Salahadin al Uzbeki until his death in early 2017.
According to RFE/RL, Uzbeki was a veteran of the jihad in Afghanistan who was sent to Syria by the Taliban and Sirajuddin Haqqani, one of the Taliban’s top deputies and leader of the powerful al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network.
Inside Syria, KIB has operated alongside several al Qaeda-affiliated groups in several major battles. This includes the spring 2015 offensive that captured large swaths of Idlib province and summer offensives in Aleppo and Latakia in 2016.
It is also currently taking part in the battles in Idlib alongside jihadists in Hay’at Tahrir al Sham, the Turkistan Islamic Party, and the Incite the Believers operations room. Just last week, it claimed its men recaptured a small village near Saraqeb from regime forces.
Since 2016, KIB has sporadically detailed its Afghanistan branch. These videos have shown both training camps and combat footage against Afghan forces.
KIB mainly operates in northern Afghanistan, specifically Faryab, and other Uzbek-dominated areas. It has not documented its activities in Afghanistan since October 2019.
Both the United States and the United Nations have designated the group as a terrorist organization affiliated with al Qaeda. In the UN’s designation, it noted that “KIB leaders view Afghanistan as a new staging ground to project attacks against neighboring Central Asia countries.”
The UN’s designation additionally finds that KIB started moving fighters from Syria to Afghanistan in 2016, which correlates to when the group began publicly advertising its presence in the country.
KIB is close to other al Qaeda-affiliated Central Asian outfits in Afghanistan, such as the Islamic Jihad Union, the Turkistan Islamic Party, and Jamaat Ansarullah. All three are heavily integrated into the Taliban’s forces.
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: Imam Bukhari Jamaat, Katibat Imam al Bukhari (KIB), Khatiba Imam al-Bukhari, KIB

Continue viewing...

Turkey’s Operation “Spring Shield” delivers blow to Hezbollah

Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed fighters recently killed in IdlibTurkey’s operation in northwest Syria has caused losses among the ranks of Iranian-backed militia groups in Syria. In particular, Hezbollah has incurred losses that have not been seen in years of fighting on behalf of the Syrian government.
Turkey launches Operation “Spring Shield”
Early in February, Turkey deployed tanks, armored vehicles, artillery and soldiers to the Syrian province of Idlib to bolster the rebels it has been backing. The decision to send Turkish troops was made in order to stave off a pro-Syrian government offensive planned to retake the last remaining opposition stronghold.
On Feb. 27, an airstrike killed 33 Turkish soldiers in Idlib. Some reports blamed the Russian Air Force, but the Russian government has officially denied the claim. Turkey then launched Operation “Spring Shield” immediately after the airstrike in Idlib.

AFP: March 1, 2020, Hezbollah fighters recently killed in Idlib.
The following day, Turkey’s Armed Forces attacked a compound near the city of Saraqeb in Idlib, where pro-Syrian forces were operating. The attack resulted in the death of nine Hezbollah members and injuries to other pro-Syrian forces.
The significant one-day loss of Hezbollah fighters is evidence of a strategy by the group and its Iranian-backer that it is willing to send its fighters and risk taking losses to defeat opposition rebel forces in northwest Syria.
The funeral procession for five of the fighters was held in the district of Ghobeiri, whose residents are predominantly Hezbollah supporters. As mourners carried the coffins of the fighters, some chanted “Our party is Hezbollah, and our leader is Nasrallah.”
Hezbollah is believed to have lost thousands of fighters since it unofficially entered Syria’s civil war in 2011. However, it wasn’t until 2013 that it publicly admitted its participation in the war and its deepening involvement in support of the Syrian government’s war against rebel and jihadi groups.
It was a little over a month ago evidence of Hezbollah’s participation in the current Syrian government’s offensive came to light as the bodies of its fighters were coming back to Lebanon to be buried.
Other Iranian-backed groups also the target of Turkey’s offensive
Liwa Zainebiyoun fighters before their burial in Qom, Iran several days ago
Turkey has also targeted Liwa Zainebiyoun fighters in its recent offensive. The IRGC-trained militia, which is made up of Pakistani Shiite fighters, reportedly lost a dozen fighters in recent days due to Turkish airstrikes in Idlib.
Liwa Zainebiyoun operations have been documented during the Syrian government’s recent offensive against opposition rebels. Fallen fighters have been returned to Iran for burial under the pretext that they were killed fighting to defend the Shrine of Zainab, located in Damascus, Syria.
A ceasefire agreement is reached
A meeting between Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Thursday produced a ceasefire agreement.
Among the terms of the ceasefire, both countries agreed to joint patrols and to establish a six-kilometer-wide security corridor along the M4 highway connecting Latakia with northern Syria.
The ceasefire offers hope that a permanent deal can be reached to end hostilities between the Syrian government, its allies, Turkish-backed groups, and Turkey’s Armed Forces in the northwest part of the country.
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, IRGC, Liwa Fatemiyoun, Liwa Zainebiyoun, russia, SAA, Syria, Turkey

Continue viewing...

U.S. military perplexed by Taliban living up to letter of agreement

Days after halting all offensive operations to ink a “peace deal,” the U.S. military has launched an air strike against Taliban fighters in Helmand after the jihadist group conducted dozens of attacks against Afghan forces there. 
Resolute Support’s spokesman called for the Taliban to “uphold their commitments” and not increase attacks, even though the U.S.-Taliban agreement signed last weekend does not include such language.
The drone strike hit Taliban fighters in Naha-i-Saraj, a contested district in Helmand province, as they “were actively attacking an ANDSF checkpoint,” Col. Sonny Leggett, the spokesman for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan and Resolute Support tweeted today.
“This was a defensive strike to disrupt the attack. This was our first strike against the Taliban in 11 days,” Leggett continued. 
During the seven days leading up to the signing of the deal, the Taliban agreed to halting attacks against U.S. forces and a “reduction in violence” with Afghan forces, but refused to conduct a ceasefire. 
The Taliban has been clear that once the seven day “reduction in violence” period ended, it would continue to attack the Afghan military and government.
Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban’s spokesman for the group’s “political office” in Qatar, where the agreement was signed, noted immediately after the signing of the deal that the seven day reduction in violence period had “ended” and the group would resume offensive operations against Afghan forces.
“That [seven day reduction in violence period] was for making the environment conducive to sign the deal,” Shaheen told The Washington Post. 
Leggett, the U.S. military spokesman, claimed that the Taliban was “committed.”
“Taliban leadership promised the int’l community they would reduce violence and not increase attacks. We call on the Taliban to stop needless attacks and uphold their commitments,” Leggett tweeted.
However, the deal signed by the U.S. and the Taliban made no such stipulations that the Taliban must halt attacks on Afghan forces.
Leggett‘s statement is part of an active disinformation campaign by U.S. officials who seem determined to misrepresent the agreement.
The most egregious statement about the deal was made by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. On Sunday, Pompeo claimed that the Taliban denounced al Qaeda and was committed to “destroy” the group. However, the deal says no such thing. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report: Analysis: Taliban leader declares victory after U.S. agrees to withdrawal deal.]
Instead, the Taliban committed to preventing al Qaeda from attacking the U.S. and its allies. This is the same commitment the Taliban made numerous times prior to Sept. 11, 2001. The Taliban has made similar promises since 9/11, yet it has harbored al Qaeda and other terror groups that have plotted against the U.S. and its allies.
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-Taliban nexus, Taliban

Continue viewing...

Analysis: Taliban leader declares victory after U.S. agrees to withdrawal deal

On Sept. 11, 2019, Ayman al-Zawahiri said America’s desire to negotiate with the Taliban shows its weakness. The State Department says the Taliban agreed to betray al-Qaeda.
Shortly after the Trump administration signed its accord with the Taliban on Feb. 29, Taliban leader Haibatullah Akhundzada declared “victory” on behalf “of the entire Muslim and Mujahid nation.” It’s easy to see why.The State Department agreed to a lopsided deal in which the Taliban extracted several significant concessions in exchange for little. The U.S. agreed to a full withdrawal from Afghanistan within 14 months, the delisting of Taliban leaders from international sanctions lists, and an uneven prisoner exchange that would free 5,000 jihadists for just 1,000 prisoners held by the Taliban. (The Afghan government quickly balked at this concession.) The Taliban has agreed to take part in intra-Afghan negotiations, but hasn’t recognized the Afghan government’s legitimacy. Nor has the Taliban agreed to a ceasefire with Afghan forces, or offered any real indication that it seeks peace. Akhundzada’s victory declaration was littered with references to the Taliban’s “Islamic Emirate,” the same authoritarian regime the jihadists have been fighting to resurrect since 2001.
In his defense of the deal, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo trumpeted the Taliban’s supposed counterterrorism assurances. But the text of the agreement doesn’t support his claims. Pompeo told a national television audience that the Taliban “for the first time, have announced that they’re prepared to break with their historic ally, al-Qa’ida, who they’ve worked with much [to] the detriment of the United States of America.” Except, that is not what the Taliban’s political team agreed to in Doha.
Al-Qaeda is mentioned by name twice, in back-to-back passages that repeat the same assurance. The Taliban claims it will “prevent any group or individual, including al-Qa’ida, from using the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies.” Without ironclad enforcement provisions, this is not a significant concession. The Taliban has been saying this all along.
The U.S. government pressured the Taliban to turn over Osama bin Laden more than 30 times between 1996, when the group solidified its control over much of Afghanistan, and the summer of 2001. Not only did the Taliban refuse, its representatives went so far as to claim that bin Laden was under wraps and posed no threat to the U.S. Obviously, that was a lie.
In the years after 9/11, the Taliban continued to insist that its terrain is off limits for both regional and international terrorists. In early 2019, for instance, the Taliban said it did “not allow anyone to use the soil of Afghanistan against other countries including neighboring countries.” That language is similar to the wording included in the Trump administration’s accord. It has never been true. Multiple international and regional terrorist organizations have fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan since 9/11, including al-Qaeda leaders with an eye on the West.
The State Department hasn’t explained why we should believe the Taliban now. The text of the deal doesn’t include any verification or enforcement mechanisms. It is possible that such measures are included in unreleased annexes, but there are still many questions concerning how this could be implemented. It is also dubious that the U.S. can continue to monitor the Taliban’s adherence after all American forces have been withdrawn from the country. There is also an issue of timing. The deal doesn’t specify how long the Taliban will supposedly keep al-Qaeda from plotting attacks against the U.S. from inside Afghanistan. Without a firm timeframe established, one could read the text as implying that this commitment only lasts as long as it takes the U.S. to get out.
A true renunciation of al-Qa’ida would entail Taliban admissions and commitments that are missing from the deal.
The Taliban has never come clean about its past, nor has the group renounced its decision to harbor Osama bin Laden and his men. Taliban founder Mullah Omar steadfastly stood by bin Laden both before and after 9/11. Omar, who eventually passed away in 2013, blamed America’s foreign policies for the hijackings. The Taliban has continued to justify al-Qaeda’s attacks in the West along the same lines. While negotiating with the U.S. last year, the Taliban argued that 9/11 was the result of America’s “interventionist policies,” while refusing to name al-Qaeda as the culprit. This is curious behavior for a group that has supposedly committed to prevent future al-Qaeda operations against the U.S.
Just as bin Laden pledged his allegiance to Mullah Omar, an oath the al-Qaeda founder maintained until his dying day in 2011, bin Laden’s successor has sworn his own bayat (oath of fealty) to the Taliban’s current overall leader, Haibatullah Akhunzada. However, Ayman al-Zawahiri’s blood oath isn’t addressed in the accord. And Akhunzada didn’t mention it in his own post-deal message. In fact, the Taliban’s Voice of Jihad websites, which publish statements every day in several languages, have remained silent concerning al-Qaeda. It would be easy for Akhundzada to disavow Zawahiri, revoking whatever religious legitimacy al-Qaeda derives from the Taliban’s blessing. Thus far, Akhundzada hasn’t done so.
Sirajuddin Haqqani, Akhunzada’s top deputy and the Taliban’s military warlord, hasn’t renounced al-Qaeda either. Al-Qaeda’s senior leaders refer to both Akhundzada and Haqqani as “our emirs.” Jalaluddin Haqqani, Sirajuddin’s father, was one of bin Laden’s earliest and most influential benefactors. The Haqqanis, including Sirajuddin, have been in bed with al-Qaeda since the 1980s. Still, Sirajuddin hasn’t addressed the Haqqani-al-Qaeda nexus.
Pompeo claims that Taliban has agreed to go well beyond a mere renunciation of al-Qaeda, as the group will supposedly work with the U.S. to “destroy” Zawahiri’s organization inside Afghanistan. This would be a reversal of Taliban policy since the 1990s.
The State Department could point to three provisions — none of which specifically name al-Qaeda, or any other terrorist group for that matter – to justify Pompeo’s portrayal. The Taliban supposedly won’t cooperate with groups or individuals who threaten the U.S., or allow these anti-American entities to recruit, train or fundraise inside Afghanistan, or provide travel paperwork for international terrorists. While that may seem reassuring, the Taliban has easy workarounds. And again, no enforcement or verification mechanisms have been spelled out.
Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), which answers directly to Zawahiri, was established in 2014 specifically to help the Taliban resurrect its Islamic Emirate. U.S. officials say that when AQIS members are captured in Afghanistan, they often do not self-identify as al-Qaeda members, but instead as warriors of the Islamic Emirate. This arrangement allows al-Qaeda to avoid international scrutiny. Consider that Asim Umar, the first emir of AQIS, was killed in a Taliban stronghold in Musa Qala, Helmand on Sept. 23, 2019. This was just a few weeks after Pompeo first declared that the Taliban was willing to “publicly and permanently” break with al-Qaeda. But the Taliban didn’t give up Umar, even though his AQIS network stretches well outside of Afghanistan’s borders, to Bangladesh, Burma, India, Kashmir, and Pakistan.
This sets up a test for Pompeo’s claims. In order for the Taliban to actively “destroy” al-Qaeda, it would have to uproot not only AQIS, but also an alphabet soup of other al-Qaeda-affiliated jihadist groups. This includes al-Qaeda-linked Central Asian and Uighur organizations, as well as Pakistani terrorists. If Pompeo’s claim is true, in the coming weeks, we should see the Taliban betray hundreds of jihadists, at least, including some high-profile figures.
If Secretary Pompeo is right, then Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad has negotiated the greatest betrayal in the history of jihadism, with the Taliban breaking its quarter-century relationship with al-Qaeda. It would be a boon for counterterrorism efforts around the globe, as jihadists everywhere from West Africa to South Asia have held up the Taliban’s alliance with al-Qaeda as a model for jihadist unity.
If Pompeo is wrong, then President Trump’s State Department has exonerated and legitimized the Taliban on America’s way out the door. That certainly wasn’t necessary to withdraw troops from the country. Nor does it place America’s security interests first. 
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, Taliban-Al Qaeda, Taliban-Al Qaeda axis

Continue viewing...

U.S. Sanctions Leader of Pro-Iran Terror Group in Iraq

Another member of Tehran’s “Axis of Resistance,” a constellation of pro-Iran proxies and partners, has been sanctioned by Washington. On Feb. 26, the U.S. Department of State designated Ahmad al-Hamidawi, the reported leader of the Iraqi Shiite militia called Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH). Despite the recent use of force by Washington, U.S. policy towards Iran and its proxies remains reliant on political and economic national security tools for punishment and coercion. The exposure and designation of Hamidawi is consistent with that trend.
Sanctions against Hamidawi were confirmed by Persian-language news sources in Iran. Much like English-language outlets, they provide scant biographical data. This lack of open-source material in English and Persian, however unreliable it may be, impedes a greater understanding of Hamidawi’s career trajectory as well as the overall leadership structure of KH, of which little is known.
This background matters greatly for analysts, policymakers, and academics studying Iran and its foreign legions. In a world without Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds-Force (IRGC-QF) Commander Qassem Soleimani, who played a key role in cobbling together militias in the service of the Islamic Republic’s regional aims, the non-Iranian men and organizations that constitute Iran’s threat network are slated to grow in importance. Already, there are reports about greater enmeshment of Lebanese Hezbollah in Iraq for purposes of training militias.
The most important – albeit complicating – piece of information the State Department revealed in its designation of Hamidawi was that he is the Secretary General of KH. Given that no start date for his tenure is given, that information conflicts with older open-source analysis from 2012 citing a man named Adnan Hamidawi, not Ahmad, as KH Commander. There is no known link between the two other than the shared last name. Similarly, in more recent reporting about the new leader of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs), Abdulaziz al-Mohammadawi (also known as Abu Fadak), a claim is also made that Fadak both served in and led KH as Secretary General at some point in his career.
Jamal Jafar al-Ibrahimi (also known as Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis), a designated terrorist born to an Iranian mother and Iraqi father who would come to serve as something of an “advisor” or deputy to Qassem Soleimani in Iraq, was essential to the founding of KH. Muhandis and Soleimani were both killed by a U.S. drone strike against their convoy in Baghdad airport in early January. KH was one of the first groups to issue a statement claiming that they would take revenge for the killing of Muhandis and Soleimani.
Throughout his life, Muhandis was involved in terrorist attacks against Western and regional interests reaching as far back as early as the 1980s. He had also supported multiple designated terror groups in the Middle East, all of which have ties to the IRGC-QF. And as referenced above, despite the designation of Hamidawi as “Secretary General” of KH, the organization was long-believed to have been led by Muhandis, who also served as Deputy Commander of the PMU in Iraq until his death.
Also known by the English translation of their name, the Hezbollah Brigades (more literally, the Brigades of the Party of God, and sometimes even Iraqi Hezbollah) KH is one of Iran’s chief regional proxies. Born out violence and chaos in Iraq in 2003 but more formally established in 2007, the group made a name for itself killing American and other coalition forces during the 2003-2011 Iraq War. After the war, KH became an important element in the paramilitary PMU (known by their Arabic name, al-Hashd al-Sha’abi), helping make the umbrella organization a vector to further Iran’s interests in Iraq.
But KH’s presence spans beyond Iraq. KH has been active in Syria in the fight to save the Assad regime, helping organize and train Iraqis for combat in that theater. Moreover, KH has occupied key portions of territory in Syria’s east, permitting it and other pro-Iran forces to control a key border crossing in what is popularly called Iran’s “land bridge.” Control of key border crossings and roads by militias loyal to Tehran enables the flow of men, money, and munitions from Iran through Iraq and into battlefields in the Levant.
KH was mentioned in the State Department press release sanctioning Hamidawi as having “claimed responsibility for numerous terrorist attacks against U.S. and Coalition Forces in Iraq, including IED attacks, rocket-propelled grenade attacks, and sniper operations.” The release further noted that KH has not just targeted U.S. and coalition forces, but more recently “was reportedly involved in sniper attacks on peaceful protesters in Baghdad, which killed more than 100 people and injured another 6,000.”
The 2018 Country Report on Terrorism by the State Department cites Iran’s support to KH, as well as other terror and proxy groups. KH is the first pro-Iran Shiite militia in Iraq to be placed on the Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) list, which is maintained by the State Department. To date, it remains the only such entity on the FTO list.
Moreover, KH has featured prominently in the U.S.-Iranian shadow war. Washington’s use of force in response to a Dec. 2019 rocket attack by KH that killed one American in northern Iraq was both important and historic for two reasons. First, the U.S. response entailed cross-border strikes in Iraq and Syria against KH targets, constituting the first time Washington used a kinetic policy tool in its otherwise economic and political maximum pressure campaign against Iran and its proxies. Second, it was the first – and to date – only time Washington has struck the same Iran-backed Shiite militia in Iraq and Syria at the same time.
Despite being designated, Hamidawi can be expected to continue wreaking havoc in Iraq on behalf of Iran. That means KH will likely step up its efforts to attack, bait, and bleed American forces in Iraq in a bid to evict them from the country. As with all non-kinetic measures, how Washington enforces its penalty is set to matter more than its announcement.  
Behnam Ben Taleblu is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD).
Behnam Ben Taleblu is a Research Fellow focusing on Iran at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
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: Iraq, Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces, IRGC-QF, Kataib Hezbollah, kataibhezbollah

Continue viewing...

Hezbollah Brigades official warns Iraqis of working with American troops

Abu Ali al Askari’s statement from earlier today
Abu Ali al Askari, the security official for Iraq’s Hezbollah Brigades (or Kata’ib Hezbollah, KH), put out a statement earlier today via Twitter warning Iraqi contractors of working with American soldiers stationed in the country.Speaking to the “owners of Iraqi transportation and security companies,” al Askari sends a “final and irreversible warning” to annul their contracts with US forces. The official also extends this warning to those Iraqis with diplomatic and economic ties to the American troops.
The Hezbollah Brigades gives a deadline of March 15 for these annulments to occur; otherwise, al Askari vaguely states that “they will bear the responsibility for their stance of reluctance and stubbornness before God and the people.”
Turning his attention to Iraq’s security forces, specifically those in the Interior Ministry and counter-terrorism units, the KH official says that “in order to preserve your history and your loyalty to the blood of the martyrs, it is imperative to not meet with the leaders of the occupation.”
Lastly, al Askari speaks to Iraqis working within the government to “abstain from meeting with the leaders of the American enemy.” He goes on to state that by doing so they would “join their [America’s] disruptive projects that target Iraq’s people, land, and holy sites.”
Finishing the short statement, al Askari also tells members of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units, ‘national units,’ the media, and other Iranian-backed groups to “support this directive with everything in their ability.”
Today’s statement follows the US designation of Hezbollah Brigades’ new leader, Ahmad al Hamidawi, as a global terrorist. In the same designation, the US State Department also noted KH’s reported role in sniping Iraqi protestors in the streets of Baghdad during protests in October.
Hamidawi replaced longtime Iranian operative Abu Mahdi al Muhandis after his death alongside Iranian Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad last month in a US drone strike.
Al Askari’s statement also comes just days after Akram al Kaabi, the leader of Harakat al Nujaba, another Iranian proxy in Iraq, warned of attacking US troops in the country.
In the wake of the assassinations of Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, al Askari previously warned of utilizing suicide operations against US troops in retaliation.
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: Hezbollah Brigades, Iran, Iraq, Kataib Hezbollah

Continue viewing...

Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Joint Operations Room launch operation “Revenge of the Truthful.”

Saraya al Quds publication “Revenge of the Truthful”
On Feb. 23, 2019, Saraya al Quds and other members of the Joint Operations Room (a coalition of Palestinian militant groups) launched operation “Revenge of the Truthful” for what it saw as a “brutal crime” the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) committed against one of its fighters.
IDF Spokesperson’s Office: Saraya al Quds fighters planting an IED
A Saraya al Quds fighter is killed and the decision is made to retaliate
The catalyst for the events that led to the start of operation “Revenge of the Truthful” began Sunday morning at the security fence near Abasan al Jadida in the eastern Gaza Strip. Two fighters from Palestinian Islamic Jihad were identified approaching the security fence by IDF observation posts. The fighters were observed planting an IED near the security fence and the IDF reacted by shooting at the cell. One fighter was killed and the other managed to escape.
The IDF sent a bulldozer and a Merkava IV tank into Gaza to retrieve the body of the militant. This is a common IDF practice. The policy behind the act is for the body to be used as a bargaining chip in a future prisoner exchange with Palestinian militant groups.
As the IDF attempted to retrieve the body, some Palestinians interfered with the retrieval by grabbing the body and pulling it further into the Gaza Strip. The IDF shot one of the Palestinians in the leg and in its hurried retrieval, mistreated the body in front of Palestinian news cameras.
Militant groups in the Gaza Strip viewed the treatment of the body of one of their comrades as disrespectful by Israel. Thus the decision was made to launch operation “Revenge of the Truthful.”
Saraya al Quds fighters launch mortars during recent operation
Rockets and mortars in southern Israel and IDF airstrikes in Damascus
At approximately 17:30 local time Sunday, a barrage of rockets and mortars were launched by Saraya al Quds towards the southern coastal city of Ashkelon and its surrounding area. The shelling continued through the evening primarily against Israeli cities and towns adjacent to the Gaza Strip.
The IDF retaliated for the attacks by striking Palestinian Islamic Jihad sites in Gaza which included training camps, weapons manufacturing sites, and rocket launchers.
As the rockets from the Gaza Strip continued to be fired into southern Israel, Syrian Arab Army (SAA) air defense units in Damascus attempted to intercept missiles fired by Israeli jets against targets in the capital’s vicinity.
Central Media, a media organization linked to Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed militant groups, claimed that Sunday night’s attack in Damascus was an attempted assassination of Palestinian Islamic Jihad leaders.
There is speculation the target was Akhram al Ajouri, a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader in Syria who survived an assassination attempt attributed to Israel several months ago.
The attempt is thought to have failed to kill any leaders but was successful in killing two Palestinian Islamic Jihad fighters and destroying a research and development site according to an IDF statement.
Through Sunday night and into Monday, militant groups led by Saraya al Quds, continued their rocket fire towards southern Israel as IDF jets struck targets in the Gaza Strip.
At approximately 23:00 local time Monday night, a ceasefire mediated by the United Nations and Egypt went into effect.

“The surprise of the next battle”
In a publication released after the ceasefire went into effect, Saraya al Quds hinted a new type of rocket was in their arsenal.
The photographs of camouflaged rockets bearing the name of the militant group with question marks and the message “The surprise of the next battle” acts as a warning that the group could launch sophisticated rockets that have not been previously used.
What is also important about this development is that it highlights the trend among some of the militant groups in the Gaza Strip that they possess the ability to manufacture rockets locally. This reduces the need to rely on parts smuggled from the Sinai, which has become more difficult in the past decade due to the destruction of many of the smuggling tunnels between Egypt and Gaza by the Egyptian Army.
A clash that could have been avoided
Recent history has shown failed attacks orchestrated by Palestinian militant groups at the Gaza security fence have generally elicited no further response from the groups. They’ve also gone as far as not taking responsibility for the failed attacks despite evidence that their fighters were involved.
Sunday morning’s event would have likely drawn a similar non-response by the factions if the IDF had not mistreated the militant’s body in front of cameras. This act angered many in Gaza forcing the faction to respond to what it saw as a violation by the IDF.
The attack by the IDF in Syria was a change in its military response to attacks from the Gaza Strip. It demonstrates that the IDF has the ability to target militant groups in neighboring countries for hostile acts conducted from Gaza. The change in tactic may also serve as a warning to Gaza’s militant groups who operate abroad such as the PFLP-GC who are active in Syria and Lebanon.
The current ceasefire is temporary
The militant groups in the Gaza Strip headed by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad are no longer deterred by IDF retaliation for rocket launches into Israel. The assassination of a Palestinian Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu al Ata in November 2019, has not achieved the deterrence the IDF expected.
The quiet the IDF achieved because of the 2014 Gaza war has been replaced by more powerful and aggressive militant factions who’ve eroded the deterrence achieved in the war.
Evidence of this erosion first manifested when the militant groups in the Gaza Strip took control of the March of Return in early 2018, which at first was a peaceful protest organized by Palestinian activists.
The militant factions used the protests to launch operations against the IDF and Israeli communities along the Gaza security fence.
Unless a deal is struck between Israel and the militant groups in Gaza (Hudna), the current course is likely leading the militant groups and the IDF into another ground war.
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, Israel, Joint Operations Room, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Resistance Brigades, Saraya al Quds

Continue viewing...

IRGC-led militant leader threatens attacks against US in Iraq soon

On 14 February, Akram al-Kabi, the leader of the Iraqi Harakat al Nujaba (HAN) paramilitary group, warned during an address in Tehran that the “resistance” would “certainly” give a “military response” to the US over the deaths of commanders Qasem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. Kabi said the responses would be “corrosive and unexpected” with the goal of forcing the US to leave Iraq.
Kabi’s threat raises the risk of a limited conflict between the US and HAN. The US may also fight other Iranian-led paramilitary groups, though the IRGC could only deploy HAN against the US. If Kabi does not carry out his threat, he would appear weak.  
Formed in 2013 as an Iraqi contingent to fight in Syria, HAN and Kabi answer to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. HAN has sustained operations in Syria and Iraq.
Kabi said that the “Resistance” would have to complement recent anti-US protests in Iraq and an Iraqi parliament solution to force the US exit (as Iraq analyst Bilal Wahab has pointed out, the Iraqi parliament did not have quorum when it passed the non-binding resolution).
Kabi declared that “we have closed all of our public offices in Iraq and are ready for war.” He continued that “to protect Resistance forces we have returned to our security methods during the occupation. The corrosive war will begin at once, and they will not find targets. Just as our roadside bombs, missiles, and bullets targeted their soldiers, today their planes and forces would be targeted.”
The US this month interdicted a shipment of Iranian weapons bound for Houthi insurgents in Yemen that includes a recently produced and previously undocumented surface-to-air (SAM) missile that US officials have called “358.” A Navy spokesman said that these missiles are only exported to IRGC-led proxies.
Kabi added that the “countdown” to the “revenge” operation has begun, and that “we are monitoring all of their [US] air and ground movements including in Ayn al-Asad, K-1, Al-Taji, Al-Matar, Sazer, etc.”
HAN released footage claiming to show a US helicopter within its “reach.”
Still from HAN video, posted on 19 Februay. Top right says “American embassy in Baghdad.”
In 2019, the US added Kabi and HAN, or Movement of the Noble, to its list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists.
Islamic Republic officials have rewarded Kabi for his loyalty and performance on the field. Kabi has declared absolute loyalty to Khamenei, openly saying in 2015 that he would overthrow the Iraqi government if Khamenei ordered him to do so. HAN has been instrumental in IRGC-led operations in Syria and Iraq. During a trip to Tehran in 2016, top Iranian officials publicly greeted him, and state media interviewed him on prime time television (for more, please see FDD’s Long War Journal Iraqi militia leader receives warm reception in Tehran). At a funeral ceremony for Soleimani in Tehran in January 2020, he was in the front row alongside other top Iranian officials and commanders behind Khamenei.
Kabi at front row of funeral ceremony for Qasem Soleimani in Tehran, January 6. Akram al Kabi, on right, greeting the new Qods Force Commander Esmail Ghaani.
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: akram alKabi, Harakat al Nujaba, IRGC

Continue viewing...

AFRICOM kills Shabaab commander behind Manda Bay Airfield attack

The U.S. military has killed the Shabaab commander who was behind last month’s assault on the Manda Bay Airbase in Kenya that resulted in the deaths of an American soldier and two contractors.
U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), announced yesterday that “precision airstrikes” that were launched near Saakow in southern Somalia on Feb. 22 killed a Shabaab commander and his wife, who is also a member of Al Qaeda’s branch in East Africa.
Shabaab has said in response that the attack was carried out under the “direction” of al Qaeda’s senior leadership.
“The two terrorists were identified as a senior al-Shabaab leader, who was in charge of planning and directing terrorist operations on the Kenya border region, including the recent attack on Manda Bay, and his wife, who also was a witting and active member of al-Shabaab responsible for facilitating a wide range of terrorist activities,” the AFRICOM statement noted.
AFRICOM did not name the Shabaab commander and his wife. Shabaab has not announced the death of any senior or mid-level commanders.
The Manda Bay Airfield assault, which took place in the early morning of Jan. 5, resulted in the death of an American soldier and two U.S. contractors, as well as the destruction of several aircraft. Shabaab also attacked a nearby base where U.S. troops were stationed.
AFRICOM initially claimed that U.S. and Somali forces “repelled” the assault and accused Shabaab of Shabaab of exaggerating the effects of its operation. AFRICOM later admitted that Shabaab “achieved a degree of success in its attack.”
Several days after the attack, Shabaab released a statement from its spokesman, Ali Mohamud Rage, who said it was “carried out under the guidance and direction of the leadership of al-Qaeda, foremost among them being Sheikh Ayman al-Zawahiri, may Allah protect him.”
AFRICOM intensified airstrikes against Shabaab after Manda Bay Airbase assault
AFRICOM launched 13 airstrikes against Shabaab’s network in the six weeks following the Manda Bay assault, according to data compiled by FDD’s Long War Journal. AFRICOM launched just 10 strikes against Shabaab in the previous three months prior to Manda Bay.
“Since January 5, U.S. Africa Command and our partners have pursued those responsible for the attack on U.S. and Kenyan forces at Manda Bay,” Gen. Stephen Townsend, the commander of AFRICOM, said in a press release. “This strike demonstrates that we will continue to relentlessly pursue those responsible for Manda Bay and those wishing to do harm to Americans and our African partners.”
Seven of the recent strikes against Shabaab took place near the town of Jilib, near the Kenyan border. Jilib is a known stronghold for Shabaab.
AFRICOM noted that the strikes were targeting Shabaab commanders involved in the attack on the Kenya airbase.
Townsend noted that Shabaab “remains a dangerous and capable enemy” that seeks to attack the U.S.
“They are a menace to the people of East Africa and U.S. national interests there and their sights are set on eventually attacking the U.S. homeland. It is important that we continue to pursue al-Shabaab and prevent their vision from becoming a reality,” Townsend said.
Shabaab’s spokesman confirmed this in his statement on the attack. The U.S. is the enemy of all Muslims worldwide, Rage claimed, and said “all American lives and interests worldwide” should be targeted.
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: Al Qaeda East Africa, Kenya, Manda Bay, Shabaab, Somalia

Continue viewing...