Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend said today that the Islamic State is planning attacks against the West (“external operations”) from its headquarters in Raqqa, Syria. Townsend didn’t provide any specifics, but the group has used its safe havens to orchestrate multiple plots in the past.
The US carried out 330 airstrikes against the Islamic State in Sirte, Libya between Aug. 1 and Oct. 18, according to data released by US Africa Command. Nearly half of these (150) were launched during the first 18 days of October. The figures indicate that the American air campaign has accelerated in its third month as the US and its Libyan allies are still trying to eject the Islamic State from the city.
The Islamic State claims to have carried out 12 suicide bombings south and east of Mosul during the first hours of the battle to retake the city. However, the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) claims that the suicide attackers were neutralized. The so-called caliphate has increasingly relied on its “martyrs” as it has lost ground in the past.
The Syrian town of Dabiq, which has long been central to the Islamic State’s apocalyptic messaging, was captured by Turkish-backed rebel forces on Oct. 16. Turkey’s Operation Euphrates Shield says that more than 1,300 square kilometers of territory along Syria’s border with Turkey has been seized from the Islamic State since August.
On Oct. 9, a statement attributed to Mokhtar Belmokhtar was circulated online. The message eulogizes Sheikh Ag Aoussa, a prominent Tuareg leader who was reportedly killed in an explosion after attending a meeting at a UN camp in Mali. The statement’s author, presumably Belmokhtar, blames France for Aoussa’s death and calls on tribes to turn against the French.
The US military launched missile strikes on three radar sites in a Houthi-controlled area of Yemen. The strikes came in response to two attacks on the USS Mason earlier this week. The Houthis’ insurgency in Yemen is backed by Iran and has greatly complicated US counterterrorism efforts.
The Islamic State’s Amaq News Agency claims that the so-called caliphate launched 53 “martyrdom operations” in Iraq and Syria in September. This is less than any previous month in 2016. But the Islamic State has claimed 782 suicide bombings in Iraq, Syria and Libya during the first nine months of 2016, for an average of 87 per month. If accurate, this is a historically high rate.
Jund al Aqsa has sworn allegiance to Jabhat Fath al Sham, al Qaeda’s rebranded branch in Syria. Jund al Aqsa itself is an al Qaeda front group. The move comes after weeks of infighting between Jund al Aqsa and other groups opposed to Bashar al Assad’s regime.