The fourth quarter of Terrorism Watch 2021 examines the latest events and developments on terror-related incidents in Southeast Asia and key incidents worldwide from October to December 2021. The Islamic State of the Khorasan Province (ISKP) remains the main actor in Afghanistan by attacking minority groups. Whereas in Europe, the United Kingdom and France are threatened by self-radicalised lone-actors. The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) continues to eliminate the local terrorist groups under the Dawlah Islamiyah (DI) banner, notably Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) and Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF)through its Focused Military Operation (FMO). Terrorist supporters have intensified media propaganda in the Philippines to garner Southern Philippine terrorist sympathisers. Meanwhile in Indonesia, local authority has gradually crippled Neo-Jemaah Islamiyah (Neo-JI) financial support. The group is trying to regain their strength by conducting social programmes comprising charity, education and Usrah activities aiming to cultivate the sympathy of locals by winning their hearts and minds. Meanwhile, the group has also been preparing a plot to attack during Christmas eve in Indonesia.
The year 2021 has passed and the world continues to struggle against COVID-19 and the advent of new varieties such as the Omicron. Similarly, terrorism is a recurring issue for which many governments are unable to find a solution since terrorism continues to be used to attain political goals. Terrorism has not abated globally, and the pandemic has really not deterred terrorists from spreading fear among the public.
The end of the year is usually significant, and the security apparatus may indeed be alerted to be more watchful. Terrorist groups such as Daesh have not shied away from carrying out assaults during the Christmas and New Year holidays. Several Daesh-affiliated websites, online magazines, and social media accounts have issued warnings and encouragement to strike on these dates. Apart from spreading the attack, the internet and social media have also been utilised to publicise their existence and recruit new members.
The coverage of Afghanistan’s security concerns, which have created a permissive atmosphere for terrorists, will not be complete at the completion of the year. The Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP) is constantly posing a serious threat to Afghanistan and its population. By intensifying attacks in the country, the ISKP continues to confront the Taliban authority. Due to a lack of personnel (estimated at 2000-3000), the group has gained traction in Afghanistan by adopting guerilla tactics in small groups. ISKP group used Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and suicide strikes on minority civilian targets, security forces and Taliban troops on a regular basis.
In addition, the lone wolf phenomenon has gained spread across Europe, particularly in the United Kingdom and France. Borderless interaction via social media is one of the major contributors to this phenomena. Individuals fall to manipulation as a result of the never-ending online propaganda and exaggerated narratives shared among closed communities. Past and contemporary events in Europe demonstrate that these sentiments have prompted immigrants to commit atrocities. The lone wolf syndrome continues to be a worldwide menace, fueling xenophobia and Islamophobia.
The following are the highlights of terrorism-related occurrences around the world:
a. On 3 Oct 21, the ISKP was responsible for the bombing and shooting outside the Eid Gah Mosque in Kabul. At least five civilians were killed and four others wounded in the attack.
b. On 8 Oct 21, ISKP claimed responsibility for the suicide attack at Gozar-e-Sayad Mosque in Kunduz, killing 50 people and more than 100 others wounded. Most of the victims were the Shiite-Hazara community. The attacker was an ethnic Uyghur from the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) terrorist group.
c. On 15 Oct 21, ISKP attacked Fatimiya Mosque in Kandahar, another Shiite worshipping site. The incident killed more than 60 civilians and injured 100 others.
d. On 2 Nov 21, at least 25 people were killed and dozens of others wounded in explosions and gunfire attacks by ISKP at Sadar Mohamad Daud Khan military hospital in Kabul.
e. On 12 Nov 21, an explosion hit a Sunni mosque in Spin Ghar in Nangarhar during Friday prayers, killing at least three people and wounding 15 others. ISKP claimed responsibility for the attack.
f. On 13 Nov 21, the ISKP group has claimed responsibility for a minibus bomb attack in Kabul that killed a journalist and wounded four others.
a. On 1 Nov 21, a French knifeman was shot by Paris transport police after shouting, ‘Allahu Akbar, France is ruled by Islamic State’ at Saint-Lazare train station. After wielding his knife and threatening people at Saint-Lazare station, the man was severely injured.
b. On 9 Nov 21, a policeman survived a knife attack in the French Riviera city of Cannes. The assailant, who was believed to be an Algerian, claimed that he was acting “in the name of the Prophet”.
a. On 14 Nov 2021, a taxi carrying a passenger arrived at the main entrance of Liverpool Women’s Hospital in Liverpool, England. The IED carried by the passenger identified as Emad Al-Swealmeen, a Syrian, ignited, killing him and injuring the driver. The man arrived in the UK in 2014 seeking asylum as a refugee but was denied.
Terrorism Trends in Southeast Asia
The terrorism-related issues involving Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) are as follows:
a. On 23 Nov 21, a suspected ASG bomb expert, identified as Kalmi Mustala (42 years old) linked to the deadly blast at a Jolo church in January 2019, was arrested in a village near Zamboanga. The operation was conducted against Mustala through a warrant of arrest issued by the Sulu court for illegal possession of explosives. Mustala was also involved in kidnappings targeting foreigners, including Swiss national Lorenzo Vinciguerra and Dutchman Ewold Horn.
b. On 8 Dec 21, two members of ASG were killed during an encounter in Patikul Sulu. They belonged to Radullan Sahiron based in Jolo and were active in Kidnap For Ransom activity.
The terrorism-related issues involving Dawlah Islamiyah (DI) are as follows:
a. On 29 Oct 21, Dawlah Islamiyah – Hassan Group, identified as Salahuddin Hassan @ Orak died in a clash with AFP in Talayan, Maguindanao. Hassan’s wife, Jehana Mimbida, who reportedly ran the group’s finances, was killed as they tried to evade arrest. Their bodies were recovered, along with rifles and ammunition magazines. Orak was also a bomb expert and protégé for Basit Usman and Marwan of BIFF group. Both are skilled in bomb-making.
b. Subsequently, on 4 Dec 21, AFP killed another five members of the DI-Hassan group, including its emerging emir, Asim Karinda @ Abu Azim. Asim Karinda replaced Salahuddin Hassan as the new chief of Hassan Group
For the Daesh media and propaganda in the Philippines are as follows:
a. On 4 Oct 21, members of a chat group known as Bint T posted the videos on their timeline and urged more killings and violence against infidels. The post gained positive remarks from other Daesh supporters.
b. Another Daesh follower with Tausug language account, Rhazna A, posted a message and celebrated the deaths of the government soldiers who fought with terrorist groups.
c. On 19 Oct 21, a Filipino Facebook user, Ghurabiya G, was detected posting an image on Facebook of a niqabi woman proclaiming an intention to fight for the Caliphate, encouraged others to condemn democracy and expressed dangerous ways to establish a Caliphate. Ghurabiya G also posted an image of a niqabi woman engaging in physical training and a 20-second video with male voice rapping promoting jihadism.
On 16 Oct 21, a video compilation featuring former (deceased) Mujahidin Indonesia Timur (MIT) chief Ali Kalora and other members and gory footage of beheadings was circulated by MIT sympathizer known as “Inti S” on social media insisting supporters to fight. The joint operation of TNI and Polri, Operasi Madago Raya, managed to kill Ali Kalora in September 2021. The operation, scheduled to end in December 2021, will be extended to 2022. The joint-operation team vowed to hunt down the last four of the remaining MIT members.
In November 2021, 24 individuals, including Neo-Jemaah Islamiyah (Neo-JI) members were arrested in Indonesia over links to terrorism financing. Those detained included a member of the Council of Ulama Indonesia (MUI), Ahmad Zainan-Naja and his two friends, Ahmad Farid Okbah and Anung al-Hamat. These suspects collected funds for JI via two Islamic charitable foundations, Syam Organizer and Lembaga Amil Zakat Badan Mal Abdurrahman Bin Auf (LAZ BM ABA). Fourteen of them were from the LAZ BM ABA, and the rest were from the Syam Organizer. Their arrests will help the local authority investigate militant funding activities in Indonesia. The two foundations were believed to have been used as fronts for JI and had risen by more than USD 2 million. Previously, LAZ BM ABA founders Abdurrahman bin Auf and Syam Organizer based in West Java known as Firmansyah were also apprehended, leading to other arrests. Thousands of charity boxes belonging to LAZ BM ABA were also confiscated during the raid.
On 25 Nov 21, a woman and a mother of two, Ummu Subah, was sentenced to three years and six months in prison for committing terrorism-related offences. She planned to migrate to Syria to join Daesh via Rome (stayed for four days) and Turkey (bought an apartment while waiting to travel Syria). Ummu was reported to have sold her house in Pejaten for RP 10.5 billion. The lady and her family were arrested when they returned to Indonesia to sell their remaining assets.
On 13 Dec 21, five suspected terrorists were arrested by Densus 88 in Southern Sumatera and Southern Sulawesi. Four of them were the Neo-JI members apprehended in Sumatera for allegedly plotting attacks during Christmas and New Year celebrations. Meanwhile, a JAD member was also arrested in Sulawesi for links with the church bombing incident in Makassar in March this year.
For the Daesh media and propaganda in Indonesia are as follows:
a. On 11 Oct 21, a Facebook user, Af K, posted a tutorial video of assembling a homemade stun button in English. The video with one minute 50 seconds duration featured a diagram of the structure and materials, including batteries, an on/off switch, a high voltage converter and a spark gap. Another Facebook user, Jus P, shared a video on how to turn a pen into a small pistol.
b. ‘Amy A’, a local Facebook user, has disseminated at least 76 posts, mostly text and a few videos and images, including those taken from other pro-Daesh, calling on ‘brethren’ in Indonesia to prove their commitment to perform jihad. Amy also urged others to leave their comfort zones and hasten their movement on the real battlefield. Amy additionally displayed military outfits and weapons and promoted a video of jihadi physical training published by “Milisi Tauhid,” a pro-Daesh media group that aggressively campaigned for violent jihad.
c. In November 2021, Voice of Hind, a Daesh online magazine has inspired Indonesian jihadists to target Hindus in the country and elsewhere. Soon after this release, Indonesian Daesh supporters spread the promotional images of publications and incited others to destroy statues in a Hindu majority island.
d. An Indonesian Instagram user and a Daesh supporter campaigned for an island in Indonesia to become a Daesh province and labelled it a city in Central Java as ‘Mujahid’ territory. Another Daesh supporter under the username, AI M, distributed a one minute video promoting a Daesh Madura province.
Terrorism threat level in the country remains moderate. There were no terrorism-related issues reported in the last quarter of the year. However, Malaysia’s law enforcement agencies remain vigilant and prepared to overpower any forms of terrorist activities.
What Can Be Expected In 2022
The FMO has significantly affected terrorist networks in Mindanao with the killings of terrorist high profile members notably their leaders and commanders. The deaths of their leaders might degrade the morale of other remnants to surrender due to the movement limitation caused by the ongoing clashes with AFP. There is also a possibility that they might retaliate sporadically to avenge the death of their leaders, refuse to surrender and continue their struggle. The ongoing pressure from AFP has also limited the presence of FTF in the Southern Philippines. There were presences of FTFs reported in the southern Philippines. However, the continuous success of the AFP managed to break the local terrorist groups’ international networks.
Daesh’s social media activities are significant as the internet paved the way for Daesh’s success in Syria and Iraq before this. The emergence of social media activity, especially by Daesh supporters indicates that the Philippines Daesh supporters are attempting to imitate the modus operandi. However, the limited internet and mobile network coverage in the Southern Philippines may hamper Daesh’s attempt to reach its supporters via social media platforms.
The continuous arrest of terrorism-related cases in 2020 and 2021 clearly showcase Indonesia’s tireless effort to eliminate terrorism domestically. The fourth quarter of this report sees that the fundraising activities have been strongly linked to JI or Neo-JI groups. The Indonesian government detected organisations such as the Syam Organizer and Lembaga Amil Zakat Badan Mal Abdurrahman Bin Auf, which operated under such disguise to support terror groups’ agenda. The fund would undeniably be channelled to groups’ terror activities, particularly in paramilitary training, weapons, dakwah activities and sending their new recruits to conflict zones.
The Daesh’s propaganda videos and posting on social media platforms shows those Daesh supporters in Indonesia lingers to imitate a Daesh siege similar to Marawi City, Southern Phillipines. The attempt to imitate such siege could only be materialised when the country has been destabilised. Daesh’s propagation to destroy Hindu statues in the country indicates their attempt to destabilise the religious harmony in the country. The current development in Indonesia and Philippines has alerted the law enforcement agencies to be vigilant for the re-emergence of Daesh’s social media propagation.
Even though the last quarter of the year looks favourable to Malaysia because no terror-related incidents occurred, the country’s law enforcement agencies should always be vigilant. The current situation in Afghanistan gives actors such as the ISKP a platform to replicate Daesh’s achievements in Syria and Iraq. As is usual, terrorist groups use cyberspace and social media to manipulate and promote their ideology. On the other hand, a lone-actor attack is possible since it is the only tool Daesh has to stay relevant globally.
The threat of terrorism is imminent. The fall of Daesh’s Caliphate has ushered in a new era of terrorism in the region, particularly with the rise of, ISKP, a Deash-affiliated group, in Afghanistan. Given that the group has already established a stronghold in Afghanistan, this might be used to recruit other extremists or terrorists groups to carry out jihad in the country based on the ideological narrative of ‘The Rise of Imam Mahdi’. Terrorist organisations such as the Daesh continue to further their goals. Daesh may quickly become involved in crisis in Afghanistan, Africa, and other Middle Eastern nations. As a result of this situation, sympathisers from Southeast Asia will be persuaded to support their cause in those conflict zones, perhaps duplicating similar inherent risks in their own countries. Terrorists and extremists can use the borderless digital age, which is facilitated by permeable sea and land borders and technological advancements, to recruit locals to their cause. Despite addressing the fundamental causes of terrorism, Preventing/Countering Violent Extremism (PCVE) and Counter-Terrorism (CT) methods must be constantly reviewed and harnessed since terrorism is a constantly evolving threat.