News Roundup, Week of 19 February, 2021

SOUTH ASIA

Afghanistan media revealed that 65-year old Taliban leader, Haibatullah Akhundzada, was actually killed in April last year. Akhundzada was allegedly killed along with Taliban’s spy chief, Mullah Matiullah, and Taliban’s moneyman, Hafiz Abdul Majeed, in an explosion at a Taliban safe house owned by Majeed in Quetta, Pakistan. Several other senior Taliban members were also killed in the explosion. However, Taliban’s senior member, Ahmadullah Wasiq, denied the report and insisted that Akhudzada is still alive.

News Roundup, Week of 12 February, 2021

SOUTH ASIA

Pakistani security agency successfully detained a Daesh member in Karachi and foiled his militant activities. The man, identified as Zakirullah @Shafiullah, was captured in a joint operation between the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) and the para-military force, Sindh Rangers, based on information obtained in Karachi. The security forces also found a grenade and a pistol amongst his possessions. Previously, Zakirullah was a member of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) but he later defected to join Daesh.  Zakirullah, who came from the Bajaur tribal district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province had received his training in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, two people died in Kabul when a series of explosive attacks targeting Kabul police resulted in the death of the district police chief, Mohammadzai Kochi and his close protective officer. An hour before Kochi was killed, two other explosions occurred, injuring four people followed by another explosion in another part of Kabul. The Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP) had claimed responsibility for the attacks. 

MIDDLE EAST

Twenty-six Syrian regime fighters including seven military officers were killed in an ambush by Daesh in Deir ez-Zor province. Eleven Daesh members were also killed during the clash. The attack had targeted a convoy that was transporting the regime fighters and military members for a counter-terrorism operation following a series of terrorist attacks in the area. Meanwhile, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic forces had announced their success in capturing two Daesh members this week. The capture was part of an ongoing effort by the US-led anti-Daesh coalition to combat a human-trafficking network at the Al-Hol refugee camp in Syria.

News Roundup, Week of 5 February, 2021

This week, it was revealed that the Indonesian authorities had detained a British woman who is on the terror watch list last year. Meanwhile, US-led air strike had killed a top Daesh leader in Kirkuk, Iraq. Separately, Daesh had attacked and killed government fighters along with their allied militia forces in Syria. Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab had attacked a hotel in Somalia and killed nine people.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Indonesian media revealed that the authorities had detained a 47-year old British woman identified as Tazneen Miriam Sailar (aka Aisyah Humaira, Ummu Yasmin) along with her 10-year old son for visa violations last year. The Manchester-born convert was also listed on the terrorism watch list, although she had not been charged with terrorism offences. Her late husband, Acep Ahmad Setiawan (aka Abu Ahmad al-Indunisy), was an Indonesian militant who perished in Syria. Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, the Jemaah Islamiyah’s (JI) spiritual leader, had officiated the couple’s marriage in 2010. Sailar had been involved in organising charities to raise funds for women and children in Syria. Sailar is currently being held in the immigration detention centre while waiting to be deported back to England.

MIDDLE EAST

A US-led air strike killed a Daesh senior leader, 43-year old Jabbar Salman Ali Farhan al-Issawi (aka Abu Yasser) in Kirkuk, Iraq. The operation, which was a joint military cooperation between the US and the Iraqi forces, also killed 10 other Daesh members. Iraqi officials described Al-Issawi, who hailed from Fallujah, as the deputy caliph for the Daesh network in Iraq. Experts believed that Al-Issawi’s death could be a significant blow to the group’s efforts to regroup. Al-Issawi was responsible for coordinating the group’s operations in Iraq. He also played a pivotal role in expanding the group’s presence in Iraq. He had developed and provided guidance to Daesh fighters.

Meanwhile, 19 Syrian regime personnel were killed, including 11 members of the Baqir Brigade, in a Daesh attack in Hama, Syria. Daesh militants had targeted the regime positions in the Fasidah area in Tuwaynan province in eastern Hama, an area known for frequent clashes between regime forces and jihadists. Russian forces are known to guard the checkpoints on occasions. The small Tuwaynan town is often targeted by Daesh for attacks. 

EAST AFRICA

The Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab orchestrated an attack on the Hotel Afrik in Mogadishu, Somalia. A suicide bomber struck the hotel’s main entrance with a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED). Gunmen then stormed the hotel, exchanging fire with the hotel security personnel. The attack saw nine people dead and ten others injured. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack in a brief statement on Andalus, the pro-Al-Shabaab radio station.

News Roundup, Week of 29 January, 2021

Philippines security forces continue to sustain pressure on militants in the Southern Philippines, while the Indonesian authorities enforce their preventive laws and made a series of arrests on suspected terrorists. The Turkish authorities also demonstrate their commitment targeting Daesh in the countries through ongoing counterterrorism operations.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Four Dawlah Islamiyah (DI) members were killed in the Barangay Basag area in South Cotabato, Mindanao in the Philippines. They were killed during a raid carried out by the Philippines security forces with the Philippines police. The joint security operation was organised to target DI’s senior member Russel Mamo who is still at large.

Meanwhile, in Indonesia, five terrorist suspects with links to the Jamaah Anshorut Daulah (JAD) were arrested by Densus 88 in separate locations in Kota Banda Aceh, Kota Langsa and Kabupaten Aceh Besar in Indonesia. They were arrested on the suspicion of plotting a terrorist bomb attack in Aceh. The police also confiscated chemicals for bomb-building, an arrow, a book on Hijrah, a notebook containing threats against the Indonesian National Army (TNI), the governor of Aceh and the government, a book on Daesh and a CD. All five men were also involved with the 2019 suicide attack at Kepolisian Resor Kota Besar (Polrestabes) in Medan, North Sumatra. They were also connected with the terror network in Riau.

EUROPE

Turkish authorities arrested six Daesh militant members during a counterterrorism operation targeting Daesh in Kastamonu, Turkey. The operation was launched since early January this year. Thirty-seven suspects were arrested in the previous week for providing financial support to Daesh in operations that were carried out simultaneously across southeast Gazientep. A couple of days later, 29 more people with suspected links to Daesh were also apprehended. Most of them were foreigners. The Turkish police’s greatest success up to this point was the arrest of the Emir of Turkey’s Daesh, Mahmut Özden last August.

News Roundup, Week of 22 January, 2021

This week saw a shocking twin suicide bombing attacks in central Baghdad, Iraq, which may signal the potential return of Daesh. Meanwhile, Malaysia saw a drop in terrorism-related activities due to the nationwide Covid-19 Controlled Movement Order (MCO). An arrested terrorist suspect in the Philippines claimed that she was pressured by her parents to commit violence. The Maute Group continued to target security forces out in the Southern Mindanao.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

The Counterterrorism Division of the Royal Malaysian Police’s Special Branch revealed that they made a total of seven arrests in 2020 on individuals suspected to have links with terrorism activities, including Daesh. This was a drastic reduction in arrests when compared to the previous years, where 83 and 72 arrests were made in 2018 and 2019 respectively. The drop in arrests was largely due to the Movement Control Order (MCO) that was introduced last March as a national lockdown response to manage the Covid-19 pandemic. The MCO had limited people’s movements, which led to a decline in terrorism-related activities.

Meanwhile, in Washington DC, the United States military prosecutors finally filed charges in a military tribunal against members of the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), Riduan ISamuddin (aka Hambali) along with two other Malaysians who aided him, Mohammed Nazir Lep and Mohammed Farik Amin. The three men are faced with various serious charges, including conspiracy, murder, attempted murder, intentionally causing serious bodily injury, terrorism, attacking civilians, attacking civilian objects, destruction of property, and accessory after the fact, all in violation of the law of war. They were captured in Thailand in 2003, and are currently being held in the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. At present, it is estimated that there are 40 Malaysian prisoners in Guantanamo.

In the Philippines, Rezky Fantasya Rullie (aka Cici and Nini Isaran) admitted that her involvement in terrorism activities was due to parental pressure. Her parents, Rullie Rian Zeke and Umi (aka Ulfah Andayani Saleh) were suicide bombers who were responsible for the 2019 attack on the Our Lady of Mont Carment Church in Jolo. Cici was also the wife to the Indonesian terrorist and facilitator, Andi Baso, who played a key role in transporting her along with her family to Jolo. Cici was arrested in October 2020 for plotting a suicide attack in Jolo. Cici’s case highlighted a worrying trend of family pressure in committing acts of terror.

Meanwhile, three members of the Philippine security forces were killed by the Maute group in Poona Piagapo, Lanao del Norte in the Southern Mindanao. The three men were on their way to the market in Baloi on motorcycles when they were ambushed by the Maute. This incident highlighted the group’s potential threat in the Lanao del Norte area, despite being reduced to less than 50 members.

MIDDLE EAST

Two Daesh members launched a twin suicide bombing attack in a busy commercial district in central Baghdad, Iraq. The attack killed 32 people and injured 110 others. The attack targeted a market in the central Tayanan Square, Baghdad. The first attack occurred when the attacker entered the market and feigned a stomach pain to draw in the crowd before detonating his explosives. Following this, the second attacker pretended he was injured from the explosion and triggered his explosives when a concerned crowd of people clustered around him. Daesh released a statement to claim both attacks. This was the worst Daesh-related attack in Baghdad since the group’s 2017 territorial defeat in Iraq. The incident demonstrated the group’s operational capabilities in regrouping to launch attacks in a major city once again. Prior to this, Daesh was only capable of provoking pockets of violence around the city edges, checkpoint areas and remote infrastructures in the desert and mountain areas, particularly in Northern Iraq.

Quarterly Report: Analysis On Terrorism Trends and Developments During The Covid-19 Global Pandemic

This report examines the latest events and developments on terror-related incidents that occurred across the globe between October and December 2020. Military actions in Iraq and Syria have reduced the impact of Daesh-related terrorism around the world. Participating governments continue to target prominent violent groups such as Daesh, Taliban and AQ. The COVID-19 health crisis has led to a decline in violence and remain at low levels. Lockdowns in Indonesia have caused pro-Daesh militants to suffer from income loss. Other groups such as Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and East Indonesia Mujahideen (MIT) remain resilient. Meanwhile, the Philippines security forces continue to target militant groups in the Southern Philippines. Groups like Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) have lost ground, but they are still able to evolve and relaunch themselves.

News Roundup, Week of 11 December, 2020

This week, more militants in the Philippines gave themselves up to the Philippines security forces, while a Saudi national who allegedly acted as a facilitator for both Daesh and the Bangsomoro Islamic Fighters (BIFF) was arrested. Meanwhile in Afghanistan, the Afghan army managed to impede an attack on yet another military in Ghazni. Air strike operations were carried out in Iraq and Egypt to target Daesh militants. Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack on two oil wells in Iraq.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Thirty-nine members of Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) surrendered to the Philippines security forces in Tawi-Tawi and Sulu in the Philippines. Three of them were identified as Alsadi Hanain, Benaser Pae and Ugali Alimudin Alsadi who were based in Tawi-Tawi. Hanain, a follower of the ASG’s emir Hatib Hadjan Sawadjaan, was involved in high-profile kidnappings and killings of foreign hostages. Thirty-six other members were followers of a senior member of ASG, Alhabsi Misaya, who was killed in a clash with the security forces in Sulu in 2017.

Meanwhile, a 47-year old Saudi national, Adel Sulaiman Alsuhibani, was arrested by the Philippines authorities in Cotabato City, Maguindanao. Alsuhibani was suspected for bringing in West Asia Daesh members into the country and acting as a facilitator for both Daesh and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. His Filipina wife, 36-year old Norhaya Silongan Lumanggal, was also taken into custody. While searching their home, the police discovered a homemade explosive along with travel documents and several passports.

SOUTH ASIA AND CENTRAL ASIA

The Taliban orchestrated yet another attack on another military base this month in the Andar District in Ghazni, Afghanistan. However, their planned suicide attack was foiled when the suicide bomber was shot by a sniper as he drove into the base. Two officers were killed while three other were wounded during the attack. This was the second attack that was successfully hampered by the Afghan army this week. Just the day before, the Afghan army thwarted a Taliban attack on a security checkpoint in Uruzgan. 

MIDDLE EAST

Five Daesh members were killed during a military air strike carried out by the US-led international coalition in Salahuddin, Iraq. The air raid had also completely destroyed their hideout. The success of this mission was the result of a joint cooperation with Iraq’s National Intelligence Service in targeting the location in Tal Thahab. Daesh militants frequently carry out attacks in the area known as the “Triangle of Death” between Kirkuk, Salajuddin and Diyala.

Iyad Mansour Al-Nimrawi, a Daesh commander, was killed during a security operation that was carried out by the Popular Mobilisation Unit (Hashd al Sha’abi) in Baiji District, Iraq. Al-Nimrawi was the senior logistics officer for the group who was responsible for data transfer for the Daesh network and providing them with logistics assistance including transportations.

In Kirkuk Province in Iraq, two Khabbaz oil wells were set ablaze by explosives but no loss of lives were reported. The technical team managed to isolate the burning wells before they could affect overall production that can generate over 25,000 barrels per day. In a statement shared on Telegram, Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack but provided no evidence to support their claim.

Meanwhile, 40 terrorists were killed in a clash with the Egyptian force in North Sinai, Egypt. Nine soldiers and two officers were also killed. The Egyptian air force destroyed 437 terrorist hideouts, during which 25 militants were killed. Another 15 terrorists were killed in a separate operation. The Egyptian forces destroyed 6 four-wheel drives, 32 motorcycles, 5 tunnels, dismantled 159 explosive devices, found weapons and wireless communications and arrested more than 20 suspected terrorists.

News Roundup, Week of 4 December, 2020

As Afghan government and Taliban representatives resumed their peace negotiations in Qatar, violence continue to unfold in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, in the wake of a deadly attack unleashed by the East Indonesian Mujahideen (MIT) in Sulawesi, Indonesia is on alert.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Earlier this week, the MIT orchestrated an attack against a village in the sleepy Lembantongoa hamlet in Sigi, Central Sulawesi, which caused hundreds of residents to flee their homes. The pro-Daesh militants torched homes and killed four farmers who were members of the local Salvation Army Church – one of them was decapitated while another was immolated. This latest episode was one of the most violent incidents ever launched by the MIT under Ali Kalora’s leadership. The presence of MIT in Sigi may also be an indication that MIT is moving out of Palu and Poso areas due to the active counterterrorism operations conducted in the two areas. In response to the spate of MIT violence in the region, the Indonesian National Armed Forces (TNI) sent a reinforcement of 30 people to Poso to aid the ongoing counterterrorism operation, Operation Tinombala.

SOUTH ASIA

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, a suicide car bomber struck an army commando base in Ghazni, killing 31 people and injuring 24 others. All of them were security personnels. The attacker, who was later identified as Asmatullah Hamid, had detonated a Humvee filled with explosives. The attack was believed to have been masterminded by Hamza Waziristani, a Taliban militant. That very evening, the Afghanistan army succeeded in hunting and killing Waziristani in eastern Ghazni. Seven other terrorists were also killed during the air strike. In a separate incident on the same day, another suicide bomber detonated a vehicle in Qalat in the southern region of Zabul, targeting the provincial council chief, Atta Jan Haqbayan, who survived the attempted assassination.

News Roundup, Week of 27 November, 2020

This week saw Philippines security forces continue to sustain pressure on militants in the Southern Philippines. Meanwhile, Singaporean authorities made several terrorism-related arrests under the country’s Internal Security Act (ISA). Meanwhile, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) announced their new commander, five months after the death of their previous emir.

SOUTHEAST ASIA

There were two separate clashes involving the Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and the Philippines’ Marine Battalion Landing Team 1 in the Barangay Area, Sulu earlier this week. The first gun battle resulted in the death of Hatib Munap Binda, an ASG subleader who operated in Kalingalan Caluang and Panamo. Binda who joined ASG in 2002 was responsible for a series of kidnap-for-ransom (KSR) activities in the area. In a separate location, a second confrontation ensued between the security forces with another group led by Sansibar Bensio, also an ASG subleader active in KFR based in Panamao. During this encounter, Sansibar’s father Bensio Barahama was killed. Meanwhile in Singapore, 26-year old Bangladeshi labourer, Ahmed Faysal, was arrested under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for his involvement in terrorism activities. Faysal, who arrived in Singapore in 2017, became acquainted with Daesh materials online in 2018, which he translated into Bengali for dissemination. Faysal had planned to go to Syria to join Daesh. In 2019, Faysal had expressed his support for Hayat Tahrir al-Syam and donated money to the group. He also expressed his support for Al-Qaeda and Al-Shabaab. 

NORTH AFRICA

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) released a video announcement of their new chief, Abu Ubaidan Yusef al-Annabi to replace their first leader, Abdelmalek Droukdel (alias Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud). Droukdel was killed in a clash with the French forces during a counterterrorism operation by last June. Al-Annabi, who came from Annaba, Algeria, is AQIM’s senior member. He once led AQIM’s Council of Notables since 2010 and played a key role in AQ’s messaging. In July 2011, Al-Annabi was the first AQIM member to pledge bay’ah to Ayman al-Zawahiri soon after Osama bin Laden’s death. Al-Annabi came to prominence in 2013 over his call to Muslims to revolt against French interference in Mali. Al-Annabi’s appointment signals AQIM’s continued interest in driving out French influence and interests from Algeria, Maghreb, Sahara, Sahel, Mali, Libya, and Tunisia. Although Al-Annabi has a strong influence amongst AQIM followers, he will be facing various challenges. AQIM’s position in Algeria has weakened as the group has to compete with other armed movements, including Daesh. AQIM’s wing, namely Jama’a Nusrat aul-Islam wa al-Muslimin (JNIM), recently clashed with Daesh network. This appointment of AQIM’s new leader is significant to AQIM in defending its position in Algeria through JNIM.

News Roundup, Week of 20 November, 2020

In a startling report, The New York Times revealed that intelligence officials have confirmed that Al-Qaeda’s deputy Emir, Abdullah Ahmed Abdulla aka Abu Muhammad al-Masri, had been slain in Iran on 7 August 2020 – exactly twenty-two years after he allegedly orchestrated the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Al-Masri, who was anticipated to replace Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al-Qaeda’s reclusive chief, was driving along the streets of Tehran with his daughter, Maryam, next to him when he was gunned down by two assassins riding on a motorcycle. Various reports suggested that Maryam, who was the widow to Osama bin Laden’s late son Hamza bin Laden, was no mere unfortunate casualty in the shooting but was also herself a target of high value because she was being groomed for a leadership role in al-Qaeda, and intelligence suggested she was involved in operational planning. The assassination was kept a secret until recently. Simultaneously, credible news are circulating that al-Zawahiri himself has passed away last month from natural causes in his domicile in an undisclosed location. Al-Zawahiri, who stepped up to lead Al-Qaeda after bin Laden’s death in 2011, was reportedly to have been suffering from ailing health. While these claims have been unverified, nevertheless they pose some serious questions about the organisation’s future. With Al-Masri’s untimely demise, their deaths could potentially underscore a serious blow to Al-Qaeda and their operations. The last remaining old guard, Saif Al-Adel who is reportedly living in Iran, is rumoured to be next in line. 

SOUTHEAST ASIA

Two members of the East Indonesia Mujahideen (MIT) were shot dead by Indonesian counterterrorism unit Densus 88 during Operation Tinombala, a joint police and military task force, in West Desa Bolano, Palu in Sulawesi. Both suspects were wanted for their involvement in terrorist activities in Sulawesi. Meanwhile, in the Philippines, 19-year old Faharuden Hadji Sapilin (aka Abu Abbas), a member of Dawlah Islamiyah (DI), had surrendered himself to the 5th Infantry Battalion in Lanao del Sur, Southern Philippines. Previously, Faharuden had been involved in clashes with the security forces in Pagayawan, Marogong dan Tubaran di Lanao del Sur. Separately, in Parang Town, Maguindanao, three members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) had surrendered to the security forces as well. They were part of BIFF’s cell, Kagi Karialan, and had acted as couriers for the BIFF network operating in Maguindanao.

EAST ASIA

Earlier this week, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) has been removed from the country’s terror list as there is no credible evidence to support that ETIM poses a threat, a move welcomed by the The Uighur Human Rights Project based in Washington, DC. ETIM was listed in UN’s list of global terrorist organisation in 2002 and US’ terror list in 2004 during the George W. Bush administration following the War on Terror campaign at the time.