Syria

Pentagon: Airstrikes kill 20 or more al Qaeda fighters in northern Syria

The Pentagon is still assessing the results of airstrikes on Jan. 1 and Jan. 3 in northern Syria, but it is believed that 20 al Qaeda "militants" were killed in the bombings. The airstrikes are likely among the most significant carried out against al Qaeda in Syria since Sept. 2014. President Obama reportedly authorized a more robust air campaign against al Qaeda in Syria late last year, after the administration had previously defined down the threat. Read more >

IRGC officers killed in Palmyra

As the Islamic State has taken the ancient city of Palmyra and battle rages on in the outskirts for T4 military air base, two Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) officers have been announced killed in Palmyra. IRGC-backed Fatemiyoun Division have fought in the area, augmenting Syrian forces backed by Russian air power. Read more >

Jihadis celebrate capture of Russian base in Palmyra, Syria

The Islamic State's Amaq News Agency claims that 352 men from the Syrian Army and allied Shiite militias were killed during four days of fighting in and around Palmyra. In addition, the group claims to have recovered a significant amount of "spoils," namely tanks and various weapons. A video recorded inside a base formerly used by Russians documents some of this war booty. Read more >

North Carolina man pleads guilty to conspiring with Islamic State recruiter

Justin Nojan Sullivan has pleaded guilty to terrorism charges, including conspiring with Islamic State operative Junaid Hussain to plan "mass casualty shooting attacks on behalf" of the Islamic State. Hussain, who was killed in an airstrike last year, asked Sullivan to make a video of the attacks and Sullivan agreed. Hussain was one of the Islamic State's key digital planners. Read more >

Islamic State defends Mosul with dozens of suicide bombers

The Islamic State claims to have carried out 120 "martyrdom operations" in Iraq and Syria in October. Seventy-nine (79) of these suicide bombings were purportedly launched around the city of Mosul. The so-called caliphate has claimed 902 "martyrdom operations" in Iraq, Libya and Syria during the first ten months of 2016. If accurate, then the group is carrying out suicide attacks at a historically high rate. Read more >

Pentagon: Al Qaeda veteran in Syria was planning attacks against the West

The Defense Department announced today that Haydar Kirkan, a veteran al Qaeda operative who was plotting against the West, was killed in an airstrike in Idlib, Syria on Oct. 17. Kirkan was one of several al Qaeda leaders targeted in Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen during the month of October. The Pentagon emphasized that the airstrikes demonstrate the "transregional nature" of al Qaeda. Read more >

Jihadists and other rebels launch new offensive in Aleppo

Al Qaeda's rebranded guerrilla army in Syria is fighting alongside other jihadists, Islamists and Free Syrian Army-branded rebels in an offensive intended to break the Assad regime's siege of Aleppo. Most of the participating groups belong to two coalitions: Jaysh al Fath ("Army of Conquest") and Fatah Halab ("Aleppo Conquest"). These same two alliances tried and failed to break the siege earlier this year. Read more >

IRGC commander killed on eve of Aleppo battle

A major battle has commenced in Aleppo between the array of pro-government and opposition forces that include Sunni and Shiite jihadists. Another high-ranking former IRGC commander has been killed in Syria. Iranian media claim he died while undertaking "advisory mission," but Guard commanders are engaged in direct combat operations, as well. Read more >

Town of Dabiq falls to Turkish-backed forces

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. Read more >

Number of suicide attacks claimed by the Islamic State dipped in September

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. Read more >

Qassem Soleimani: Islamic State was created to fight Iran

Two top officials from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Qods Force (IRGC-QF) delivered remarks commemorating the most senior IRGC commander killed in Syria last year. Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the IRGC-QF, spoke about the strategic importance of Syria, and claimed that the Islamic State was established with the goal of threatening Iran. Read more >

Al Qaeda-linked foreign fighter recruiter designated by State Department

The State Department has designated Omar Diaby, who has recruited French men and women to wage jihad in Syria, as a terrorist. Diaby faked his death in 2015 so he could receive treatment for wounds he suffered. He resurfaced earlier this year. Diaby is infamous for producing a series of videos under the brand "19HH." The videos have explicitly marketed his loyalty to al Qaeda. Read more >

Jund al Aqsa uses drone to drop small bomb on Syrian regime forces

Jund al Aqsa, an al Qaeda front group, is playing a major role in the rebel offensive in Hama province. The group released a video earlier today showing one of its drones dropping a small, unguided bomb on Syrian regime forces. Jund al Aqsa has endorsed Al Nusrah Front's relaunch as Jabhat Fath al Sham ("Conquest of the Levant Front"), saying that al Qaeda's senior leadership must have determined that it was in the best interests of the people and the jihad in Syria. Read more >

Islamic State says senior official killed in Aleppo province

The Islamic State issued a "martyrdom" statement today for Abu Muhammad al Adnani, who was one of the group's top leaders and spokesman. The Defense Department subsequently confirmed that Adnani was targeted in an airstrike, but added that his status was still being assessed. The Pentagon described Adnani as the "principal architect" of the Islamic State's "external operations," meaning the part of the organization devoted to planning attacks in the West and elsewhere abroad. Read more >

Two US-backed groups clash in northern Syria

Jaysh al Tahrir, a group that has received several US TOW anti-tank missiles in the past, fought with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northern Aleppo. The SDF is the main anti-Islamic State fighting force for the United States and has received considerable support from the West. Read more >

Zawahiri says jihadists should prepare for guerrilla war in Iraq

In the third episode of his "Brief Messages to a Victorious Ummah" series, Ayman al Zawahiri calls on "the mujahideen of the Levant" to help the jihadists in Iraq "reorganize themselves" for a "protracted" campaign of "guerrilla war." Zawahiri clearly expects the Islamic State's caliphate claim to be rendered moot and he wants jihadists to follow a new strategy in Iraq going forward. Read more >

Analysis: Al Nusrah Front rebrands itself as Jabhat Fath Al Sham

Abu Muhammad al Julani announced that Al Nusrah Front has been rebranded as Jabhat Fath Al Sham. Many have read into Julani's statement as a formal disassociation with al Qaeda. But Julani didn't actually say that, as his language was intentionally ambiguous. While sitting next to a longtime al Qaeda veteran from Egypt, Julani did not explicitly say that his group has broken from al Qaeda. Read more >

Ex-Gitmo detainee, Islamic State’s leader in Chechnya designated by State Department

The State Department has added a former Guantanamo detainee, Ayrat Nasimovich Vakhitov, to the US government's list of designated terrorists. According to press reports, Vakhitov was recently arrested in connection with the terrorist attack at Istanbul's Ataturk airport. Also designated today is Aslan Avgazarovich Byutukaev, who leads the Islamic State's forces in Chechnya. Read more >

Islamic State claims nearly 600 suicide attacks in first six months of 2016

According to statistics provided by Amaq News Agency, which is part of the Islamic State's propaganda machine, the so-called caliphate deployed 589 suicide bombers in Iraq, Syria and Libya during the first six months of 2016. The figures published by Amaq cannot be independently verified and other sources indicate the figure may be lower. But Amaq's aggregate statistics are generally consistent with the scale of the Islamic State's fighting. Read more >

Ohio man conspired with Islamic State recruiter, Justice Department says

The Department of Justice announced today that Munir Abdulkader, a 21 year-old man living in Ohio, has pleaded guilty to terrorism charges. Abdulkader was in contact with Junaid Hussein, an Islamic State recruiter who encouraged him to carry out attacks in the US. Hussein established ties to a number of Islamic State suspects in the West prior to his demise in an August 2015 American airstrike in Raqqa, Syria. Read more >