The fourth quarter of Terrorism Watch 2022 explores the most recent events and developments pertaining to terror-related incidents in Southeast Asia and significant incidents worldwide from October to December 2022. The Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP) continues to undermine the Taliban’s legitimacy in Afghanistan, and Al-Shabaab attacks in Somalia have increased significantly. Generally, terror-related events and incidents are contained inside the borders of each nation.
In addition to the ongoing clashes between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in the Philippines, there have been claims of social media being used to promote terrorist acts. Moreover, the Philippines are also successful in encouraging Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) members to surrender through its Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (PCVE) programs. In Indonesia, the Jamaah Anshorut Daulah (JAD) proved its relevance by executing a suicide attack on a police station in Bandung. Even though the Indonesian government has successfully reduced the threat of terrorism in the country, radical Muslims are continuously using social media to incite hatred in Indonesia.
From January 2022 to December 2022, no terrorist activities were reported in Malaysia. However, the recent 15th General Election demonstrated the rise of religious bigotry and racism, which are precursors to extremism in the country. If the current extremism trends continue, it may lead to a new wave of radicalism among certain political party supporters.
At the global and regional levels, the existing situation, domain, and scenario of extremism, radicalism, and terrorism do not indicate any noteworthy changes in the fourth quarter of 2022. Terrorists and militant networks continue to commit terrorist acts in conflict zones in order to maintain their relevance. In addition, there are reports on terrorism financing that indicate terrorist organisations are focused more on sustainability. In the final quarter of 2022, the hunt for terrorist leadership has continued, and in 2023, changes in leadership are anticipated to alter the group’s vision. Additionally, the year 2022 concluded without any significant terror-related incidents.
The following are the highlights of terrorism-related occurrences around the world:
An explosion occurred on Istiklal Avenue in Istanbul, Turkey on 13 Nov 22, leaving six people dead and 81 others injured. The explosion was likely sparked by a bag dropped by a woman in front of a shop. The location of the incident is also a popular weekend destination for locals and foreign tourists. No one has yet taken responsibility for the blast. A Kurdish woman was detained as the leading suspect.
In recent months, the Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP) has carried out operations against a number of educational institutions. The Kaaj Education Center in West Kabul was attacked on 30 Sep 22, killing 35 female students and injuring 82 others. Next, on 28 Nov 22, 22 students died in an explosion at Al Jihad Madrasa in Afghanistan’s Samangan Province.
On 13 Nov 22, Afghan security forces from the 201 Khalid Bin Walid Corps raided a hiding location of Daesh militants. The raid by the security forces in Nangarhar Province succeeded in arresting six ISKP members along with some explosives and AK-47-type firearms. The Taliban promised to continue its efforts to free Afghanistan from the ISKP threat.
Four women and thirteen children were returned to Sydney on 28 Oct 22 from the Al-Hol refugee camp in northern Syria. All of the women will be charged with terrorism-related offences or illegal entry into Syria. The Australian government will act in accordance with the law to secure the safe return of all Australian citizens. The choice proved controversial in Australia given the radical ideology and opposition to the Australian way of life of individuals who were brought back.
On 9 Dec 22, the Australian government expressed their concern over the early release of Umar Patek, who was released on 7 Dec 22. Umar Patek, real name Hisyam bin Alizein, is a Jamaah Islamiyah (JI) member and bomb expert who was involved in the 2002 Bali bombing that killed 202 people. However, Australia respects Indonesia’s decision and requests that Umar Patek’s activities be monitored after his release because the incident killed 88 Australians.
On 7 Dec 22, the Boko Haram group killed 33 wives of members of the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) in Sambisa Forest, Borno. The killing of ISWAP members’ wives was reported to have occurred after ISWAP’s top leader, Ba’ana Chingori, together with his group, killed Boko Haram Commander, Malam Aboubakar, and 15 others in a gun battle at one of the Boko Haram camps. Besides ISWAP wives, Boko Haram also killed 12 more ISWAP members in Yuwe and seized four ISWAP gun trucks.
On 16 Nov 22, the South African Banking Risk Information Center (SABRIC) reported that Daesh followers in South Africa are using the Tinder app on social media to generate income. Daesh members are said to have created fake profiles and posed as actors and models before manipulating Tinder users into transferring their money. SABRIC’s statement is also supported by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), which says that Daesh is using South Africa as a safe haven for consolidation after defeats in Syria and Iraq.
On 29 Oct 22, at least 100 people were killed and 300 others injured in an attack involving two car bombs that were detonated outside the Ministry of Education building in Mogadishu, Somalia. The attack took place as the Somali President and top security officials met to discuss operations against Al-Shabaab. To date, no party has claimed responsibility for the attack.
On 28 Nov 22, at least nine civilians, including a police officer, and six terrorists were killed in an Al-Shabaab attack on a hotel in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu. The explosion at the Villa Rose Hotel happened after the group stormed the hotel near the presidential palace. Villa Rose is often visited by members of parliament and high government officials to attend meetings. The location of hotel is also close to the office of Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack, which left 100 people dead in Mogadishu.
On 30 Nov 22, Daesh announced the death of its leader, Abu al-Hassan al-Hashimi al-Qurashi, through its official media, Al-Naba. Daesh only stated that al-Hasan was killed in a battle without elaborating on the date of his death or the circumstances. The militants have also named Abu al-Hussein al-Husseini al-Qurashi as the new leader of Daesh. Accordingly, the US military’s US Central Command has confirmed his death and stated that the Daesh leader was killed in a battle with the Free Syrian Army in Syria in mid-October 2022.
The United States of America
On 16 Nov 22, the U.S. Department of State’s Rewards for Justice (RFJ) programme announced that the agency will pay USD 10 million to informants related to Al-Shabaab. The information required by the Department of State is about Al-Shabaab leader Ahmed Diriye, Al-Shabaab deputy Mahad Karate, and Al-Shabaab operations chief Jehad Mostafa. In addition, the RFJ will also pay the same amount for information on Al-Shabaab’s funding network. The Al-Shabaab group has been designated as a terrorist group by the United States (US) and the UNSC since 2008.
Terrorism Trends in Southeast Asia
The terrorism-related issue involving the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) is as follows:
On 7 Nov 22, two members of the Karialan faction of the BIFF were killed in a firefight with security troops in Maguindanao Province. The fight began while troops of the 33rd Infantry Battalion (33IB) were inspecting the car in which the two terrorists were riding near Kampung Dapiawan in Bandar Datu Saudi Ampatuan. Following the BIFF ambush on security troops on 4 Nov 22, security control in the area has been strengthened.
The terrorism-related issue involving Jund Tauhid Wal Jihad Mindanao is as follows:
On 18 Nov 22, there was a propaganda video posted by Jund Tauhid Wal Jihad Mindanao, a new terrorist group in Mindanao. It was uploaded to a Facebook account, displaying a video professing allegiance to Daesh leader Abu Hasan al-Hashimi and claiming to be the Islamic State’s new group in Southeast Asia.
The terrorism-related issue involving Daesh is as follows:
The discovery of a Facebook account from the southern Philippines believed to be a Daesh fan, uploaded many images of women clutching various types of weaponry, flags, and Daesh propaganda materials on 21 Nov 22. The owner of the account appears to be encouraging women to participate in terrorist activities.
The terrorism-related issues involving Dawlah Islamiya (DI) are as follows:
On 1 Dec 22, two bombmakers from the Dawlah Islamiya (DI) group were arrested by the Philippine security forces in Barangay Glamang, Polomolok, South Cotabato. The DI members known as Pandian and Salila are experts in the fabrication of homemade explosive devices using readily available components such as ammonium nitrate and potassium chlorate, which can be used as an explosive powder for homemade bombs.
On 29 Sep 22, a member of the East Indonesian Muhjahidin (MIT) militant group, Askar @ Jiad @ Pak Guru, was shot dead by the Task Force (SATGAS) unit in Kilo Village, Poso, Central Sulawesi, in an operation known as Op MADAGO RAYA. Earlier, SATGAS had arrested a member of MIT, named Suhardin @ Hassan Pranata, in a previous Poso raid.
A Facebook user posted a video on 22 Nov 22 depicting a guy slapping a veiled girl in Kasaragod, Kerala, India, when the girl was on her way to a religious school. Some Facebook users have criticised and urged for other Muslim terrorists to take revenge against Hindus in India, as well as urged Muslims to slaughter Hindus in Bali, Indonesia.
On 7 Dec 22, one policeman was killed and 10 others were injured in an explosion in the lobby of the Astana Anyar police station in Bandung, Indonesia. The perpetrator of the suicide attack was also killed when he armed himself with a knife, entered the police station, and then blew himself up. The perpetrator, identified as Agus Sujatno or Abu Muslim bin Wahid, is a member of the JAD group who was imprisoned on charges related to terrorism and was released in April 2021.
The last MIT member pursued by the SATGAS unit in Op MADAGO RAYA was Askar @ Jiad @ Pak Guru. The death of Askar shows that the MIT movement has been completely paralysed in Poso, Sulawesi. Following this operation, Indonesian authorities will concentrate on activities such as propaganda dissemination and the narratives of MIT supporters who are still active on social media. This monitoring is critical in limiting the activities of recruiting new MIT members and funding sources in order to prevent the rise of MIT 2.0 in the future
After the 15th GE, the emergence of religious extremists and the doctrine of assabiyah require special consideration. Indicators of extremism and bigotry have proliferated rapidly throughout multiple social media platforms, but they have received little attention due to the anticipation of a political shift. Among the narratives that are propagated are anti-Chinese calls, questioning the Muslim status among the Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Barisan Nasional (BN) supporters, the May 13 call, declaring fellow Muslims as infidels, PH supporting the Jewish movement, and a Christianization agenda in Malaysia.
What Can Be Expected
The skirmishes between the BIFF group and the Philippine security forces demonstrate the BIFF’s continued threat in Maguindanao Province. The assault on Philippine security personnel demonstrates the group’s strategy, which is to exert pressure on military troops taking part in the Focused Military Operation (FMO), which is centered in the Southern Philippines. The two bomb makers’ arrests, meanwhile, are generally a positive development for the Southern Philippines. Despite the fact that the group’s threat has diminished significantly since 2020, the arrest of these two people offers Philippine security forces hope that they will be able to stop any significant attacks. In addition, numerous BIFF and Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) militants have turned themselves in to Philippine security forces since 2020. DI has refrained from giving up because it still intends to create an Islamic caliphate in the Southern Philippines. The group’s attempts can be thwarted by the security forces’ continuing operation in the Southern Philippines.
It is believed that the recent conflict between the Philippine military and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has facilitated the creation of new militant groups such as the Jund Tauhid Wal Jihad Mindanao. In addition, groups such as the Maute Brothers obtained funding from Daesh in Syria using this mode of operation in 2015. Interestingly, the Islamic Caliphate of Daesh has been crushed since 2017, and its recent commander was first reportedly detained by Turkish authorities in October 2022, but lately, he has reportedly died. Therefore, the new organisation is believed to be oblivious to the present situation in Syria. Nonetheless, the appearance of Jund Tauhid Wal Jihad Mindanao suggests that some elements are attempting to carry out Marawi Siege 2.0 in the Southern Philippines.
Historically, pro-ISIS militant groups in the southern Philippines have discouraged women from directly participating in jihad. The most recent trend, however, indicates that women are being given a greater role in direct combat, including taking up arms and even becoming suicide bombers, as in Iraq and Chechnya. The opportunity to participate in this essential jihad is also designed to provide women whose husbands were killed on the battlefield with the chance to exact revenge for their husbands’ deaths. Several suicide assaults carried out by women who had recently lost their husbands provide significant evidence of this trend in the Southern Philippines in 2018. Additionally, Boko Haram, a group that works with Daesh, employs this strategy. Even though the Philippines are quite successful in their Preventing/Countering Violent Extremism (PCVE) programs in the South, however, the increase of women in terror-related activities needs to be taken seriously because there are more and more female jihadists in this area, and it is very challenging for security authorities to identify them.
In India, racial-based politics is not a new phenomenon. Thus, this element of hatred is exploited by interested parties, such as Daesh sympathisers, to inflame religious sentiment. There is evidence that the user of this Facebook account has repeatedly propagated religious sentiments to attract the attention and support of Daesh adherents. Nevertheless, it appears that Daesh sympathisers in Indonesia have responded to this messaging. The instigation of an attack on Bali is believed to elicit a favourable response, given that the island is revered by Hindus and that the 2012 Bali incident garnered international attention. The “global village effect” could drive extremists to target Hindu places of worship, despite the fact that Indonesia is thought to be able to deal with this type of threat.
The most recent attack on police officers by JAD members occurred in November 2021. The JAD began attacking Indonesian police officers in 2015, after pledging allegiance to Daesh. Terrorist groups in Indonesia have been practically destroyed by sanctions and the enforcement of anti-terror laws. Nonetheless, the dissemination of terrorist narratives and ideologies by groups such as Daesh is still prominent in Indonesia, resulting in lone-wolf attacks in the country. The phenomenon of the lone wolf arises frequently among JAD supporters who are passionate and zealous in their jihad endeavors. As JAD adherents continue to target security personnel for retribution, the POLRI will continue to face attacks in the future.
Even if the Malaysian opposition party’s false narratives have been corrected by individuals using the stereotypical justification that “their words were reported out of context,” the damage has already been done. All of the aforementioned campaign materials are still available on social media, specifically Facebook and TikTok. The Royal Malaysian Police (RMP) has thus far made a few arrests relating to the dissemination of hateful narratives, and various leaders of the opposition party have been probed for the statements they have made. If this extremist culture is allowed to continue, it will breed radicalism in society.
Overall, the threat of terrorism that concerns the international community, such as the threat posed by Daesh, is regarded as having diminished significantly. Particularly for the year 2022, the threat of terrorism is only concentrated in conflict-affected regions. Developments in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Africa are now viewed as local crises that do not pose global risks. Although Daesh militants still exist in Syria, the current threat is a domestic uprising. In addition, it is believed that the deaths of two Daesh leaders in 2022, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi in February and Abu al-Hassan al-Hashimi al-Qurashi in October, contributed to a reduction in the threat level in 2022. The level of threat was established by the success of large-scale events, such as the burial of Queen Elizabeth II in the United Kingdom and the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar, without terrorist-related incidents. It indicates conclusively that the threat of terrorism in 2022 was low.
Following the 15th GE in Malaysia, the rise of religious radicals and the assabiyah doctrine deserve special attention as multiple signs of extremism and racism propagate on various social media platforms. Often, irresponsible parties play narratives such as anti-Chinese, the culture of infidelity among Muslims, and the Christianization agenda. These issues could have a negative impact on the country’s political stability, which could hinder the country’s progress and socioeconomic development as well as foreign investment opportunities. Moreover, the current state of affairs in the country may serve as a magnet for extremist, radical elements and external terrorism
The threat of extremism and terrorism in Malaysia is still moderate and manageable, thanks to the anti-terrorism laws and the hard work of many security agencies like the Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF) and the Royal Malaysian Police (RMP).