January 30, 2015 5:41 PM
By Bill Roggio
The Islamic State has officially acknowledged that its forces have withdrawn from the Kurdish town of Kobane in northern Syria. The al Qaeda offshoot admitted its retreat in a short video that was released by 'Amaq News Agency,' an official propaganda outlet.
The video, which is comprised of statements from two unidentified jihadists who fought in Kobane, was obtained and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group. Both fighters credited the air campaign by the US-led Coalition with forcing their retreat.
The first fighter said that "it was fated for us to retreat from Ayn al-Islam [Ayn al Arab, or Kobane] bit by bit, because of the bombardment and because some of the brothers were killed."
The second fighter said that "the reason behind our retreat is that we did not find points in which to remain garrisoned. We stayed in garrisoned positions inside more than 70% of Ayn al-Islam, but the aircraft did not leave any buildings and destroyed everything."
"They flattened the land with their rockets, so we were forced to retreat," he continued. Later, he stated that the aircraft "bombarded day and night."
The second jihadist warned that the Islamic State would "return" to Kobane, presumably once Coalition aircraft turn their attention elsewhere.
"This is the style of hit and run since the days of the Messenger ... We will return once again and we will disperse them [the Kurds]," the second fighter said.
The Islamic State's claim that much of Kobane was difficult for the group to occupy because it was leveled is somewhat plausible. According to Al Jazeera, Kurds returning to Kobani have found "at least half of the town destroyed."
The jihadist in the video rightly notes that a considerable number of airstrikes were launched against the Islamic State in and around Kobane. The US-led Coalition has executed 606 airstrikes on the jihadist group in the area between Sept. 27, 2014 and Jan. 20, 2015, according to data compiled by The Long War Journal and Military Edge. That represents more than 71 percent of the total number of Coalition airstrikes in Syria during that timeframe. [See LWJ report, Islamic State is forced from Kobane.]
January 28, 2015 2:31 PM
By Bill Roggio
Hezbollah killed two Israeli soldiers and wounded seven more in an attack on a armored unit that was patrolling near Mt. Dov at the border between Israel, Lebanon, and Syria. The group has claimed credit for the attack.
"The IDF has confirmed that during today's attack, Hezbollah militants fired 5 anti-tank missiles at the patrolling force near Mt. Dov. One soldier and one officer," a company commander, "were killed," the Israeli Defense Forces stated on its blog. "Seven additional IDF soldiers were injured, two of them moderately. The injured soldiers were evacuated to a hospital."
"The IDF responded to attacks with combined aerial and ground strikes at Hezbollah operational positions," the Israeli military stated.
According to Reuters, a Spanish peacekeeper was killed during retaliatory air and artillery strikes against Hezbollah. It is unclear if any of the group's fighters were killed.
Hezbollah claimed the attack via Al Manar, the the group's official news outlet.
"At 11:25 this morning, the Quneitra Heroic Martyrs group, of the Islamic Resistance, targeted an Israeli military convoy in the Shebaa Farms composed of several vehicles transporting Zionist officers and soldiers," the statement said. "Several vehicles were destroyed, and casualties were caused among the enemy ranks."
Several senior Lebanese government officials, including the prime minister, the speaker of parliament, and the foreign affairs minister, praised the attack, according to Al Manar.
Today's assault was likely launched in retaliation for the deaths of six Hezbollah operators, including the son of slain leader Imad Mughniyah, and a Qods Force general and six other officers and advisers in an Israeli airstrike. The thirteen Hezbollah and Qods Force commanders and members were scouting the Quneitra area in Syria on Jan. 18 when Israeli aircraft launched an attack, killing them all. [See LWJ reports, Hezbollah commanders killed in suspected Israeli airstrike, and Senior Qods Force general killed in suspected Israeli airstrike.]
January 27, 2015 3:55 PM
By Caleb Weiss
Islamic State fighters shown attacking the Arkaban border post near the Jordanian border.
The Islamic State has released photos showing its forces attacking Iraq's Arkaban border post near Jordan. The photos were produced by the Islamic State's Wilayat (Province) Anbar and disseminated by its supporters online.
The pictures show fighters firing on the border post with rocket propelled grenades, small arms, and with technicals (pickup trucks armed with heavy machine guns). At least seven technicals are shown in the images released by the jihadist group.
Iraqi media reports that the Islamic State attack on the outpost was repelled by Iraqi border forces backed by airstrikes. Brigadier Saad Maan, a spokesman for the Iraqi Interior Ministry, said that "The strength of the third regiment in the fourth border guards foiled an attempt by Daesh [the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State] to attack the Iraqi Arkaban Border Station near the Iraqi-Jordanian borders and confronted the attack in coordination with the Joint Operations which provided aerial support for the Iraqi troops." Maan continued by saying that three border guards were wounded in the attack, sustaining minor injuries.
Last November, the Islamic State attacked an Iraqi military outpost near the Trebil border complex with Jordan. At least six Iraqi military personnel were killed or wounded in that attack. Iraq had recaptured the Trebil crossing just days after the Islamic State overran it in June of last year. [For more information on the attack on the Trebil crossing, as well as the brief capture of it, see LWJ report, Islamic State attacks Iraqi border crossing with Jordan.]
Photos released by the Islamic State showing the attack on the Arkaban border post with Jordan can be seen below:
January 25, 2015 7:34 PM
By Caleb Weiss
A media organization linked to Boko Haram, al Urwa al Wuthaqa, has released two images purporting to show children training somewhere in northeastern Nigeria.
The two photos show at least a dozen children in what appears to be a weapons training program. Several are seen holding AK-47 assault rifles, while others are seen holding cutouts of weapons. Some children appear to be girls, while the majority pictured are young boys.
Boko Haram joins several other jihadist groups around the world in showcasing training for young children. In 2013, the Turkistan Islamic Party, an al Qaeda affiliated group that operates in Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, and Syria, released a video showing kids training in Pakistan. The Taliban are also known to operate training camps, including those for suicide bombings, for youth in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Additionally, The Long War Journal has identified several training camps for children in Iraq and Syria. These camps are run by jihadist groups such as the Islamic State, the Al Nusrah Front, Junud al Sham, and Ahrar al Sham. [For more on training camps for children in Iraq and Syria, see LWJ report Jihadists tout training camps for children in Iraq and Syria]
Boko Haram is an al Qaeda-linked group operating in Nigeria. The group controls vast amounts of territory in the northeastern part of the country. In addition to killing countless Nigerians, the group also poses a threat to neighboring countries. [For more information on Boko Haram, see LWJ reports Boko Haram continues to slaughter Nigerians, Boko Haram overruns Multinational Joint Task Force base, and Chad joins Cameroon, Nigeria, in fight against Boko Haram]
January 24, 2015 11:57 AM
By Thomas Joscelyn & Bill Roggio
When announcing the US strategy to "degrade and ultimately destroy" the Islamic State in both Iraq and Syria, President Barack Obama said he would model it after America's counterterrorism strategy in Somalia and Yemen, "one that we have successfully pursued...for years."
Immediately after Obama's speech, we at The Long War Journal questioned the wisdom of describing Somalia and Yemen as "successfully pursued" counterterrorism operations. Al Qaeda's official branches, Shabaab in Somalia and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in Yemen, remain entrenched in their respective countries, despite some setbacks here and there. AQAP's core leadership cadre is intact. And both al Qaeda branches continue to control territory while working to conduct attacks outside of their countries. [For details, see LWJ report, US strategy against Islamic State to mirror counterterrorism efforts in Yemen, Somalia.]
In the four plus months since Obama described Yemen as a successful engagement, things have gone from bad to worse. The Iranian-backed Shiite Houthis have broken out from the northern provinces and overran the capital. Just this week, President Hadi, who was perhaps America's greatest ally on the Arabian Peninsula as he actively endorsed and facilitated US counterterrorism operations, including controversial drone strikes against AQAP, was forced to step down. The prime minister has also resigned and the government has dissolved.
During this timeframe, the US drone program against AQAP has stalled. The last US drone strike in Yemen that has been confirmed by The Long War Journal took place on Nov. 12, 2014. This is especially remarkable given that AQAP has claimed credit for the assault on Charlie Hebdo's offices in Paris, and the terrorists themselves said that AQAP sent them.
Unsurprisingly, US officials are now telling Reuters that counterterrorism operations in Yemen are "paralyzed" with the collapse of the Hadi government (the long gap in strikes in the face of the Charlie Hebdo attack is a clear indication that US CT operations are in limbo). Yemen's military is also said to be in disarray.
If US officials expect the Houthis to be willing participants against AQAP, they are mistaken. The Houthis, while enemies of AQAP, are no friends of the US. While their movement was not created by Iran, they have adopted the Iranians' motto: "Death to America." Additionally, any action against AQAP only serves to strengthen the Houthis, and by extension, Iran.
Meanwhile, without a central government and effective military, Sunnis may be tempted to back AQAP against the Shiite Houthis, thereby increasing AQAP's recruiting pool. There is already evidence that this is happening.
If this is what a successful counterterrorism strategy looks like, we'd hate to see failure.
January 24, 2015 11:41 AM
By Bill Roggio
It is very rare that I read an editorial on a subject that I am deeply vested in and agree with every point made. Dawn, the Pakistani newspaper, hit the nail square on the head with an editorial, titled "Banned or not?". The paper asks the hard questions about whether the Pakistani government has really banned the Haqqani Network and Jamaat-ud-Dawa. [For LWJ's analysis on this subject, see: Reported ban of Haqqani Network unlikely to end Pakistan's support of group, and Pakistan falsely claims it takes 'immediate action' against terror groups listed by the UN.]
The editorial is reproduced in full, below. Keep in mind that asking tough questions about the Pakistani state's duplicity with respect to terrorist groups requires quite a bit of courage in that country. The Long War Journal is banned in Pakistan to this day for noting Pakistan's good-vs-bad Taliban problem, as well as exposing other issues. But that is a small price to pay. Brave and insightful journalists, such as Asia Times reporter Syed Saleem Shahzad, have been tortured and brutally murdered for questioning the Pakistani state and its links to the Taliban and other jihadist groups.
Kudos to Dawn for its cogent editorial.
IT ought to be a straightforward answer to a simple question: has the Pakistani state taken any measures in recent weeks against, among others, the Haqqani network and Jamaatud Dawa that impact on the legal and operational status of those groups on Pakistani soil?
January 23, 2015 9:42 PM
By Thomas Joscelyn
Earlier today, published reports cited family members of Mohamed al Zahawi, the leader of Ansar al Sharia in Benghazi, as saying that Zahawi had succumbed to injuries sustained during fighting last year. Zahawi's death had been rumored for months, but there was never any confirmation. His family told the press that he had been hospitalized since receiving his wounds. A Libyan military official said that Zahawi had been seriously wounded during fighting in September 2014. You can read our coverage here.
More evidence of Zahawi's demise has surfaced online. Jihadists have posted a photo, shown above, that allegedly shows Zahawi after his death.
January 23, 2015 12:22 AM
By LWJ Staff
Cameroonian armed forces rescued approximately 24 hostages on January 19 just one day after Boko Haram terrorists raided Mabass village, located in northern Cameroon, and abducted nearly 80 villagers. Local military sources estimated that 50 children were among those abducted and scores of homes were also destroyed in the attack.
More details on the incident were reported by Reuters:
"According to our initial information, around 30 adults, most of them herders, and 50 young girls and boys aged between 10 and 15 years were abducted," a senior army officer deployed to northern Cameroon told Reuters.
The attack on Sunday reportedly included hundreds of Boko Haram militants who went house to house taking women and children before attempting to flee back over the border into Nigeria.
Deutsche Welle provided some sobering claims about the challenges in securing the porous border areas between Cameroon and Nigeria:
Half of the 500 kilometer (311 miles) border that Cameroon shares with Nigeria is already occupied by Boko Haram on the Nigerian side, and DW's correspondent said it would be easy for them to cross over and kidnap more Cameroonians or send in suicide bombers.
The weekend clash and mass abduction by Boko Haram is setting the stage for the much touted intervention by neighboring Chad. Last week, the Chadian Parliament voted 150 to 0 to provide military assistance to both Cameroon and Nigeria to help battle Boko Haram. Chadian Government officials have since disclosed that the deployment of its forces to Cameroon includes around 2,000 soldiers, armored vehicles and attack helicopters, according to Al Jazeera America.
January 20, 2015 4:14 PM
By Caleb Weiss
"Jihadi John" stands before Kenji Goto Jogo and Huruna Yukawa and threatens Japan with their lives.
In a newly released video by one of the Islamic State's media wings, Al Furqan, a familiar jihadist gives Japan an ultimatum regarding two Japanese citizens the group is holding hostage.
The short video, entitled "A Message to the Government and People of Japan," shows a jihadist, which appears to be the infamous "Jihadi John," standing before two kneeling Japanese prisoners. The hostages, which are identified as Kenji Goto Jogo and Huruna Yukawa, are set to be killed in 72 hours unless Japan pays a ransom of $200 million.
This ultimatum comes just days after Shinzo Abe, the Japanese Prime Minister, pledged $2.5 billion in non-military aid for the Middle East, including $200 million for those fighting the Islamic State. The jihadist group acknowledges this in the video by saying, "You have proudly donated 100 million to kill our women and children, to destroy the homes of the Muslims." The jihadist then calls on Japan to pay $100 million for each captive within three days.
In a response to the ultimatum, Shinzo Abe said "Their lives are a top priority." Abe continued with, "It is unforgivable. Extremism and Islam are completely different things. The international community will not give in to any form of terrorism and we have to make sure that we work together." Additionally, chief cabinet secretary Yoshihide Suga said in a meeting in Tokyo that, "If true, the act of threat in exchange of people's lives is unforgivable and we feel strong indignation. We will make our utmost effort to win their release as soon as possible."
Huruna Yukawa, who was captured by the Islamic State back in August, was allegedly a security contractor before going to Syria. In a video post to social media when Yukawa was initially captured, he claimed he was a photographer according to a translation by SITE Intelligence Group. The other hostage, Kenji Goto, is a freelance journalist who has worked in various hotspots throughout the Middle East. His family lost contact with him in October and his wife reportedly received ransom demands of $8.5 million in November.
"Jihadi John" is the same Islamic State militant who beheaded James Foley, Steven Sotloff, David Cawthorne Haines, Alan Henning, and Peter Kassig. The most recent release marks the first time the group has asked for a ransom payment in this line of videos.
January 18, 2015 4:11 PM
By LWJ Staff
Chad has joined neighboring states Cameroon and Nigeria in the fight against Boko Haram. Chad's Parliament voted 150 to 0 on January 16 to dispatch an undisclosed number of Chadian security forces to assist Cameroon and Nigeria in the war against Boko Haram terrorists.
More details from the Wall Street Journal:
Cameroon's President Paul Biya told reporters that the Chadian army would send "an important contingent" of soldiers, without expanding further. A statement from the Chadian government confirmed as much, though it also didn't say how many soldiers Chad would send or what their role would be.
Additional details were reported by the AFP:
"Dozens of Chadian tanks headed out of N'Djamena south towards Cameroon on 16 January to help fight Nigeria's dreaded Boko Haram insurgents.
Cameroon is now on the precipice of receiving substantial military assistance not only from Chad, but also from the US and Russia.
Of note, both the US and Russian Ambassadors to Cameroon announced on January 15 separate offers to provide equipment and training to Cameroonian soldiers.
Boko Haram, which has substantially increased its battlefield atrocities in recent months, might finally be facing a robust regional military threat, one that will presumably soon be supported by the international community. [See Long War Journal report, Boko Haram continues to slaughter Nigerians.]
January 17, 2015 10:00 AM
By Caleb Weiss
Map of al Qaeda-linked attacks in Mali and Niger since 2014. Map made by Caleb Weiss for The Long War Journal.
Jihadists in Mali have attacked two towns in the last 24 hours, leaving at least four dead in the restive African country. Suspected al Qaeda militants struck the United Nation's base in Kidal in the north with a complex assault. Two suicide car combs and a rocket barrage left at least one Chadian peacekeeper dead.
The second attack occurred yesterday in the central Malian town of Teninkou and left two Malian soldiers and one civilian dead, according to Reuters. The assault began when around 20 gunmen on motorcycles opened fire on Malian soldiers manning a checkpoint near the entrance of the city. The firefight lasted for about three hours before the jihadists withdrew. While most reports state that three people were killed, other sources have claimed that casualties were much higher.
No group has yet to take responsibility for the attack but al Qaeda-linked forces are suspected to be the perpetrators. On Jan. 8, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), al Qaeda's official branch in North Africa, assaulted a military base in Teninkou. No one was injured in the attack, but it was said to have been a probing operation to test the response of the Malian military. That incident followed two other attacks in central Mali that occurred less than a week apart.
On Jan. 7, AQIM attacked the nearby town of Djoura before quickly retreating, leaving one civilian dead. And on Jan. 5, AQIM assaulted a Malian military base in the town of Nampala close to the Mauritanian border, killing seven troops. Jihadists in Mali and neighboring states have increased their operations despite an ongoing French-led counterterrorism mission. The al Qaeda groups in Mali appear to have regrouped and re-equipped in recent months.
According to Malijet, AQIM is pursuing a new strategy for central Mali. The strategy includes using the Wagadou Forest as a base of operations to conduct offensives on nearby towns. The jihadist group used the forest in this manner before being forced out by Malian and Mauritanian forces in 2011.
Other jihadist groups linked to al Qaeda have also conducted attacks recently in northern Mali. Al Murabitoon, which was formed from the merger between the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) and Mokhtar Belmokhtar's al Mulathameen Brigade, has conducted several recent assaults near Gao and Ansongo. Ansar Dine, the local wing of AQIM, is thought to have been behind the Jan. 10 attack near Kidal that left seven Senegalese peacekeepers wounded.
January 15, 2015 6:20 PM
By Thomas Joscelyn
Two suspected terrorists have been killed by Belgian authorities, who launched a series of counterterrorism earlier today. Belgian officials have been tracking multiple people who had returned from Syria for at least a few weeks, and some of them were suspected of planning "terrorist attacks on a grand scale," according to Eric Van Der Sypt, a spokesman for Belgian prosecutors.
"The searches were carried out as part of an investigation into an operational cell some of whose members had returned from Syria," Van Der Sypt told the press, according to Reuters. He added that officials do not think the people targeted in the raids are connected to last week's attack on Charlie Hebdo's office, or the separate assaults on a French policewoman and a kosher market. "For the time being, there is no connection with the attacks in Paris."
Van Der Sypt went on to describe the shootout that led to two suspects being killed. "The suspects immediately and for several minutes opened fire with military weaponry and handguns on the special units of the federal police before they were neutralized," Van Der Sypt said.
Citing a "senior Belgian counterterrorism official," CNN reports that "the alleged terror cell is believed to have received instructions from ISIS," or the Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot that controls large portions of Iraq and Syria. The suspects' foreign ties are not confirmed.
January 15, 2015 10:56 AM
By Bill Roggio
Today, the Afghan Taliban released a statement praising as "justice" the attack by two jihadists on the office of Charlie Hebdo in Paris that killed 12 people including the magazine's editor, and condemning the magazine's new edition which again depicted the Prophet Mohammed.
The statement, which is reproduced in full below, was published at Voice of Jihad, the group's official website. Here is the relevant statement [emphasis mine]:
An attack was carried out last week, bringing the perpetrators of the obscene act to justice however blasphemous notions against the great Prophet of Islam - peace and blessing be upon him - were again published from the same address today, once again opening the door to provoking the sensitivities of nearly one and a half billion Muslims.
The Taliban's praise of the Paris attack, which was claimed by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, should come as no surprise. But it is interesting given that in the past the Taliban have attempted to brand their jihad to regain power in Afghanistan as a legitimate struggle against "occupation," and the Taliban have claimed to seek "cordial relations" with the international community. For instance, the Taliban said the following in 2013 when the group established its "political office" in Dubai:
The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan wants to have cordial relations on basis of mutual respect with all the countries of the world including its neighbors and desires security for its nation as well as security and justice on international level.
And the Taliban claimed the political office was partially established "[t]o talk and improve relations with the international community through mutual understanding."
The reality is that the Taliban have made such statements merely to placate the international community. But the Taliban's true colors show when the group praised the Charlie Hebdo attacks, or lauded Osama bin Laden as a "great Mujahid" who was responsible for "rearing, training, enlightening and equipping Mujahideen," or nearly every day when it uses suicide bombers, often against its own people.
Statement of Islamic Emirate concerning the blasphemous action against the Prophet of Islam (PBUH) in France
January 13, 2015 4:22 PM
By Caleb Weiss
The Kazakh child can be seen standing behind the two captives just prior to killing them.
In a new video released by the Islamic State's al Hayat Media Center, the terrorist group features two men, one Kazakh and one Russian, who are accused by the group of spying on behalf of Russia.
The video first features Mamayev Jambulat, a Kazakh national, who says he was sent by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) to spy on Russian-speaking militants in the Islamic State. He claims to have been paid by Russia in return for his spying. Jambulat says he was told to focus on a figure within the Islamic State, but the jihadist's name is omitted from the video.
The second man, who is likely a Russian national, makes similar claims of spying on behalf of the FSB. The man says he was a "Muslim before, but then I handed over my brothers," which indicates he might have initially gone to Syria to fight, according to Joanna Paraszczcuk at Radio Free Liberty's Under the Black Flag.
After the two captive men speak to the camera about the Islamic State's charges against them, the video shifts to a bearded man standing next to a young boy behind the kneelng captives. The older man makes a short speech before the child shoots the captives in the head. The boy, who was previously featured in an Islamic State video, is an ethnic Kazakh.
In the previous video, which was released in November, a training camp for Kazakh recruits and their children was showcased by the Islamic State. Although the first half of the video focused on the adults, the second half of the video showed Kazakh children being taught Arabic, as well as physical and military training. At the end of the video, the same boy featured in the most recent Islamic State production proclaims: "We're going to kill you, O kuffar [unbelievers]. Insha'allah [God-willing], we will slaughter you."
January 12, 2015 4:44 PM
By Caleb Weiss
In the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris, several jihadist groups have released statements lauding both the murders and the terrorists responsible. Jihadists within al Qaeda's international network as well as those linked to the Islamic State have commented on the massacre. Several of the statements mentioned below were first obtained and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.
Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), al Qaeda's official branch in North Africa, has released two statements praising the assaults. The first, which was released on Twitter via an account affiliated with AQIM, urged other Muslims to follow the examples of the Charlie Hebdo and kosher market attackers. According to a translation by the SITE Intelligence Group, AQIM wrote, "Here are the knights of the Invasion of Paris (the three), who have lit for you the road with their blood once again, so march on their path and trust in your Lord, and declare to the worshipers of the cross and all those who stab your religion and the honor of your Prophet."
In the second statement, AQIM again praised the terrorists, adding a quote from Osama bin Laden: "It was said to you by Sheikh Osama, may Allah have mercy on him: 'If there is no check on the freedom of your words, then let your hearts be open to the freedom of our actions.'"
Mokhtar Belmokhtar, a veteran al Qaeda leader in al Murabitoon, a jihadist group that operates in Mali, Niger, and southern Libya, also released a statement commending the Charlie Hebdo attack. According to a translation by the SITE Intelligence Group, Belmokhtar said, "Two soldiers from the soldiers of Islam, sacrificers [sic] from among the best knights, made France and its soldiers taste humiliation and disgrace in its own home, even in its capital, and in front of its intelligence and it [sic] army, in a heroic, rare operation, where both of our brothers showed strong will and mighty determination." Belmokhtar attempted to justify the attack by alleging that France has "violated the lands of Muslims in its Crusader, hate-filled invasion of the Azawad region (Northern Mali)."
Shabaab, al Qaeda's branch in Somalia, also joined in by saying, "They made millions of Muslims happy by taking action. Some misguided people claim that freedom of expression was attacked, but that is not the case, and the two heroic people acted accordingly." On its radio station in Somalia, Shabaab added that the terrorists are "our two brothers [who] were the first to take revenge."
Vilayat Dagestan, the Dagestani branch of the al Qaeda-linked Caucasus Emirate, also released a statement. According to a translation by SITE, the jihadist group said: "The Media Commission for Vilayat Dagestan congratulates the Islamic Ummah for the revenge by the lions of Islam for their Prophet, Allah's peace and blessings be upon him, and it considers that bloody, heroic attack an act of retaliation for the best among creation, Muhammad, Allah's peace and blessings be upon him."
The spokesman for Jamaat-ul Ahrar, an offshoot of the Pakistani Taliban, has also released several statements on Twitter, according to SITE. Ehsanullah Ehsan, who released the following tweets in English, said, "We r [sic] delighted to hear about attack on evil team of Charlie Hebdo. Any head that thinks about insulting our Prophet PBUH will be beheaded." Ehsan continued in a later tweet by saying, "We congratulate the organisers [sic] of Paris attack from the bottom of our heart. This is the language that these filthy Kuffar understand."
The Islamic State, through its daily audio message, lauded the attackers as "heroic jihadists," according to SITE. The audio message stated that the attackers "killed 12 journalists and wounded ten others working in the French magazine Charlie Hebdo, and that was support for our master Muhammad, may Allah's peace and blessings be upon him. It is worth noting that this magazine often assaulted the character of the great Messenger, may Allah's peace and blessings be upon him, since 2003. Among those killed were the cartoonists who mocked Islam."
These jihadist groups join al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), al Qaeda's branch in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, in celebrating the massacre. In an audio message released by Harith al Nadhari, an influential official in AQAP, the group lauded the attackers as "mujahideen heroes." He sought to justify the operation by claiming that France is "among the leaders of disbelief." [For more on AQAP's statement, see LWJ report, Senior AQAP official praises Paris attack in new audio message.]
January 10, 2015 12:01 PM
By Caleb Weiss
Map of al Qaeda-linked attacks in Mali and Niger since 2014. Map made by Caleb Weiss for The Long War Journal.
An attack on UN troops yesterday in the northern city of Kidal has left seven Senegalese peacekeepers wounded. According to Reuters, the peacekeepers were traveling near the Kidal airport when their vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED). No group has yet taken responsibility for this attack, but al Qaeda militants are suspected to be the perpetrators. The Malian jihadist group Ansar Dine, the local arm of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, has been accused of planting the majority of the explosive devices in the Kidal region.
The bombing follows a string of attacks in central Mali this week. On Jan. 8, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), al Qaeda's official branch in North Africa, assaulted a Malian military base in the town of Teninkou. The operation was said to be a probe to test the response from the Malian military. On Jan. 7, AQIM attacked the nearby town of Djoura before quickly retreating, leaving one civilian dead. And on Jan. 5, AQIM assaulted a Malian military base in the town of Nampala close to the Mauritanian border, killing seven troops. Another jihadist group operating in Mali, al Murabitoon, the alliance between Mokhtar Belmokhtar's al-Mulathameen Brigade and Ahmed el Tilemsi's faction of the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), has also conducted several attacks in the past week. [See accompanying map for more information.]
Jihadists in Mali and neighboring states have increased their operations despite an ongoing French-led counterterrorism mission. The al Qaeda groups in Mali appear to have regrouped and re-equipped in recent months.
In 2014, jihadists launched at least 34 significant offensives in Mali and five more in Niger, according to data compiled by The Long War Journal [see accompanying map]. Improvised explosive devices were the most common method used by the groups; 15 IED attacks were launched against French and UN forces as well as civilians in 2014. [For more information on the data compiled, see LWJ report, Jihadists in Mali step up attacks, kill 7 soldiers.]
January 4, 2015 9:19 AM
By Caleb Weiss
Fighters from the Al Nusrah Front after taking over the Hezbollah position
The Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda's official branch in Syria, launched an attack on Hezbollah positions near the Syrian town of Flita along the Lebanese border yesterday. According to The Daily Star, a Lebanese publication, four Hezbollah fighters and five Syrian regime fighters were killed in the assault. The number of casualties on Al Nusrah's side is not immediately clear, but Reuters quoted Lebanese and Syrian sources that said "15 members of Al Qaeda's wing were killed." This tally is not confirmed and Al Nusrah has not released any information on its casualties.
In photos posted to Twitter, the Al Nusrah Front said that its fighters "conquered al Masroob point which belong [sic] to Iranian Hezbollah." The al Masroob point is a location in the Qalamoun region of the Damascus countryside near the Lebanese border. A few hours after its claim of victory, the jihadist group said its forces retreated from the point after "burning it and seizing the weapons and ammunition." Reuters notes that the Syrian military responded to the attack by shelling Al Nusrah positions with mortar rounds. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reports that clashes were still ongoing in the area yesterday evening.
Hezbollah, which is Iran's proxy in Lebanon, has sent thousands of troops to Syria in order to assist the Assad regime. The group has fought alongside regime forces against various rebel groups, including Al Nusrah and the Islamic State. Hezbollah has also clashed with Al Nusrah and elements of the Islamic State over the border in Lebanon. In August 2014, the rival groups fought in the Lebanese border town of Arsal. A few months later, Al Nusrah and Hezbollah battled again in Lebanon, this time in Brital.
In light of Hezbollah activity in Syria, both Al Nusrah and the Islamic State have taken Lebanese hostages to use as bargaining chips against the Lebanese government. In its propaganda, Al Nusrah has said that the families of the captives should blame Iran and Hezbollah for the executions of Lebanese prisoners. [For more on Al Nusrah taking Lebanese hostages, see LWJ report, Al Nusrah Front propaganda focuses on Iranian influence in Lebanon, Syria.]
December 31, 2014 4:01 PM
By Bill Roggio
Yesterday, Somalia's National Security Agency said that the leader of Shabaab's Amniyat, or intelligence service, was killed in a US airstrike in southern Somalia on Dec. 29. Today, the US Department of Defense issued a confirmation that Tahlil Abdishakur was indeed killed. The full text of the DoD press release is below.
Again, there is some uncertainty over the identity of the leader of the Amniyat. [See LWJ reports, Captured Shabaab official previously identified as group's 'chief of intelligence', and Somali government reports Shabaab's intel chief killed in US airstrike, for more details.] The US military seems certain that Abdishakur was indeed the head of Shabaab's intelligence branch as well as the director of Shabaab's "external operations," or missions that occur outside of Somalia.
Text of DoD press release on the killing of Abdishakur:
The Department of Defense has confirmed that Tahlil Abdishakur, chief of al-Shabaab's intelligence and security wing, was killed in an airstrike on December 29th.
December 29, 2014 10:58 AM
By Caleb Weiss
The Islamic State has released photographs showing its fighters using a US-made BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missile against elements of the US-backed Free Syrian Army in the Damascus countryside.
The images were published by the Islamic State's Wilayat Damascus (State of Damascus) and disseminated on Twitter by its supporters.
In the photo set, many Islamic State fighters can be seen amassing in more than 15 technicals, or armed pickup trucks. The pictures then show the use of the TOW missile on Free Syrian Army (FSA) units. The last few photos show FSA members the Islamic State has taken captive.
While the Islamic State is publicizing its use of the American-made weapon, it is unclear if it is the same model that is being supplied to various FSA groups throughout Syria. At least one TOW missile was also used by the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda's official branch in Syria, in that group's recent offensive on Wadi al Daif in the northwestern province of Idlib. [For more on this, see LWJ report Al Nusrah Front uses American-made anti-tank missile in Idlib.]
Additionally, many FSA groups have utilized supplies of TOW missiles to assist the Al Nusrah Front or allied jihadist groups in the past. In early October, many FSA groups assisted Al Nusrah and Ahrar al Sham in southern Syria with TOWs. Then a few days later, the Hazm Movement posted a video of its fighters utilizing TOWs in support of Jaish al Muhajireen wal Ansar in Aleppo. The Chechen group considers itself to be the Syrian branch of the Caucasus Emirate, an al Qaeda-linked jihadist organization that operates in the North Caucasus.
Pictures released from the Damascus countryside can be seen below:
December 25, 2014 10:29 AM
By Caleb Weiss
Picture of Islamic State fighters after reportedly raiding an outpost of the Al Walid border crossing
The attack on the outpost south of Qaim, Al Jazeera reported, "killed five members of the Iraqi Border Forces," including a lieutenant colonel. In addition, Voice of Iraq reported that Iraqi forces managed to "repel the attack by Daesh [the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State]," claiming that "dozens of fighters" of the Islamic State were killed; however, this claim cannot be independently verified.
The Islamic State released photographs yesterday claiming to show its fighters attacking at least one outpost near the border crossing. The pictures, which bear the title of Wilayat Anbar (State of Anbar), claim to be dated on Dec. 23.
In the photo set, the Islamic State showcases its fighters attacking the outpost, as well as displays items seized during the raid. At least three pickup trucks belonging to the Iraqi police were acquired, along with a wide array of weaponry from the outpost. The photo set ends with the Islamic State showing one of its dead fighters, a local emir with the nom de guerre of Abu Anas al Ansari.
The alleged date of the photos cannot be independently verified. While the Islamic State claims the photos are from the fighting on Dec. 23, it also attacked the Al Walid crossing on Dec. 2. A local tribal leader told Reuters that in the previous attack, weapons and vehicles were seized and then driven back to nearby Rutbah, where jihadists fired "guns in celebration as they arrived." Rutbah is under the control of the Islamic State and that exact scene was showcased in the newly released photo set. Furthermore, media reporting on the Dec. 23 attack makes no mention of weapons or vehicles being seized by the jihadist group.
The Al Walid border crossing was captured by the Islamic State along with the nearby Tarbil border crossing with Jordan on June 22. The two crossings were then subsequently retaken by the Iraqi military just days later. The two crossings have remained contested, as the Islamic State seeks to eject Iraqi forces and control the border outposts. On Nov. 25, the Islamic State launched a suicide attack on the Trebil crossing, killing or wounding at least six Iraqi Army personnel.
Photos released by the Islamic State claiming to show the Dec. 23 attack on Al Walid: