November 21, 2014 12:21 PM
By Caleb Weiss
Photo allegedly taken from Ramadi today
The Islamic State has launched a coordinated assault on Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's large western province of Anbar, in an attempt to take over the entire city. It is thought that the terror organization is already in control of around 60 percent of Ramadi after battles that have raged since its initial assault on the city in January.
According to Reuters, gunmen attacked Anbar provincial government offices and the police headquarters in the center of the city, as well as the al Huz and al Mua'almim districts. Another report indicates that the districts of Albu Hayis, Albu Fahd, and Albu Alwan, which are traditional strongholds of the Sunni tribal Sahwa (Awakening) Movement, are also under attack. Al Jazeera is reporting that "at least 20 soldiers" have been killed in this assault, including Iraqi police colonel Majid al Fahdawi. Fahdawi was reportedly killed by sniper fire in the Mudhiq district of Ramadi.
Both Awakening and Iraqi military forces are currently trying to push back the Islamic State assault. In addition, mosque officials throughout the besieged areas are asking civilians "who can carry weapons to confront the attackers," according to Reuters.
The southern districts of Al Tam'im, the aforementioned Mua'almim, Thubat, and 5 Kilo, in addition to the 7 Kilo and Albu Aytha areas west and north of the city, are either contested or under Islamic State control. Iraqi security forces are said to be concentrated at the Anbar Operations Command Center, which is north of the Euphrates River.
This assault comes as US Special Forces have begun to implement large-scale training of the Iraqi Army and Sahwa forces at the Al Assad airbase close to Ramadi. President Barack Obama has also authorized the deployment of an additional 1,500 US personnel to Iraq for training purposes; many of these troops will likely be deployed to Al Assad. According to NPR, the trainees include Anbar-based troops of the Iraqi Army's 7th Division, which has suffered severe setbacks in the province. [For more details, see LWJ reports, Islamic State ambushes Iraqi military column near Ramadi, Islamic State overruns Iraqi military base in Anbar, and Islamic State photos detail rout of Iraqi Army at Camp Saqlawiya.]
November 20, 2014 2:02 PM
By Oren Adaki
On Nov. 19, a Twitter account affiliated with al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) claimed credit for a series of attacks that took place this week, including a twin improvised explosive device (IED) attack on two Houthi leaders in the central Yemeni province of Dhamar. The Houthis, also known as Ansar Allah, are northern rebels from a minority Shiite sect who overran Yemen's capital city of Sana'a in late September and have since continued their military advance through the country, taking Dhamar province in mid-October.
AQAP claimed that its fighters carried out two separate IED attacks in the provincial capital city of Dhamar on Nov. 17, targeting the residences of two Houthi leaders. Fighters from the "Abi Bakr al-Sadeeq Brigade" from Ibb province allegedly planted the IEDs. The AQAP statement indicated that the first IED attack targeted the home of Houthi leader Abdallah Hassan al Washli at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 17 using an 8-kilogram bomb made from TNT. The residence of a second Houthi leader named Banus, located in the Ma'bar section of Dhamar, was targeted at 8:15 p.m. The AQAP statement claimed that the attacks resulted in casualties and significant material damage.
These latest attacks in Dhamar came just hours after AQAP fighters assassinated another Houthi leader in the city, Khaled al Washli. A statement released that day by the jihadist group said that AQAP fighters opened fire at 11:00 a.m. as al Washli was near the Anas public market in Dhamar. Notably, the statement asserted that the attack was carried out by Ansar al Sharia's al-Farouq Brigade, which is usually based in the nearby province of Radaa. In 2012, the US Department of State identified Ansar al Sharia as an alias for AQAP.
AQAP also claimed credit for an attack on Houthi fighters that took place in Baydah province on Nov. 19. In that incident, the jihadist group detonated an IED on a Houthi vehicle close to the Hayd al Majel Cemetery in the Tha region of Radaa. No more information regarding that attack was forthcoming from AQAP.
AQAP has also claimed credit for an IED attack on a military armored vehicle that took place on Nov. 17 in eastern Hadramout province. The statement indicated that the attack occurred at 10:00 a.m. as the vehicle was driving along the road connecting the cities of Shibam and Seyoun. According to the jihadist group, three soldiers were killed in the operation and the remaining troops were injured.
November 19, 2014 3:56 PM
By Bill Roggio
US Central Command, or CENTCOM, announced today that it again targeted the "Khorasan Group," which is comprised of a group of senior al Qaeda leaders and operatives who are embedded within the Al Nusrah Front. The Khorasan Group is tasked with identifying Western recruits who joined Al Nusrah and can be repurposed for attacks in their home countries or elsewhere abroad. The Al Nusrah Front is al Qaeda's official branch in Syria.
The airstrike took place between Nov. 17-19, and "struck and destroyed a storage facility associated with the Khorasan Group," CENTCOM said in a press release.
The US has now launched 15 air and cruise missile strikes on four different days against al Qaeda's network in Syria since the air campaign inside Syria began on Sept. 22.
Eight airstrikes targeted al Qaeda's network west of Aleppo on Sept. 22, five more strikes hit the group in Sarmada on Nov. 5, and another attack was launched west of Aleppo between Nov. 12-14.
CENTCOM has attempted to make a distinction between the so-called Khorasan Group and the Al Nusrah Front, even though they are one in the same. CENTCOM's own targeting shows this.
The targets of the strikes on Sept. 22, Nov. 5, and the latest attack hit Al Nusrah Front infrastructure, which is used to wage the group's local insurgency against the Assad regime (CENTCOM did not disclose the target of the strike that occurred between Nov. 12-14). Among the targets hit were IED-making facilities, a munitions production facility, a storage facility, a communication building, command and control facilities, training camps, staging areas for fighters, and vehicles. For more information on CENTCOM's distinctions between the Khorasan Group and the Al Nusrah Front, see LWJ report, US airstrike targets al Qaeda in Syria.
November 18, 2014 1:29 PM
By Oren Adaki
Yesterday, a Twitter account linked to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) claimed credit for a series of attacks that took place in several Yemeni provinces between Nov. 11 and Nov. 17. The Twitter account also apologized for the five days of media silence that preceded the release of yesterday's statements, claiming that the "temporary shutdown" was due to ongoing "battle conditions."
First, AQAP claimed credit for three improvised explosive device (IED) attacks in Hadramout province aimed at Yemeni military personnel. The first of these attacks took place on Nov. 11, targeting a Yemeni armored vehicle as it traveled along the road linking Wadi Sirr and Shibam city in Wadi Hadramout. Although the terror group admitted it could not determine the number of casualties and wounded resulting from the attack, it did note that the Yemeni army had confirmed that two soldiers were killed and five others were injured.
According to AQAP, the second attack in Hadramout also took place on Nov. 11, along the main road linking the city of Mukallah with the Khalaf region on the coast. AQAP claimed that a Yemeni Special Forces officer named Ra'ed Ghaleb Awwad was killed and three other soldiers were wounded in the IED attack. Additionally, the AQAP statement alleged that the Yemeni military personnel targeted were driving a civilian vehicle and that the soldiers wounded in the attack were members of Yemen's military police.
The third attack in Hadramout took place on Nov. 16, along the road connecting the cities of Seyoun and al Qatn. The AQAP statement said two Yemeni tanks and one armored vehicle were targeted in the attack, but that only the last tank was hit. AQAP again indicated that "it was not possible to accurately determine the enemy losses resulting from the detonation of the IED."
Fighting also continued in Yemen's central Baydah province, the site of intense clashes between AQAP and the Shiite Houthi rebels for the past month. AQAP claimed that fighting broke out at 11:00 a.m. on Nov. 12 between Sunni tribesmen and AQAP fighters on one side and the Houthi rebels on the other. The statement indicated that the battles erupted in the al-Alib section of Manasseh in Radaa and that AQAP fighters set fire to a Houthi military vehicle. AQAP also claimed credit for an IED attack that took place on Nov. 16 targeting a Houthi military vehicle in the al-Hamma region of Baydah. No casualties were reported by AQAP.
AQAP also carried out an IED operation in the Dayqa valley in Abyan's Mahfad region, a longstanding stronghold of the terrorist group, on the morning of Nov. 16. AQAP claimed that the attack took place at precisely 9:30 a.m. and killed two Yemeni soldiers.
And finally, AQAP claimed to have assassinated a Houthi leader on Nov. 17 in the central Yemeni province of Dhamar, which had been seized by Houthi rebels with virtually no opposition in mid-October. According to the terror group's statement, AQAP fighters opened fire at 11:00 a.m. as Houthi leader Khaled al-Washli was near the Anas public market in Dhamar. Notably, the AQAP statement asserted that the attack was carried out by Ansar al Sharia's al-Farouq Brigade. In 2012, the US Department of State identified Ansar al Sharia as an alias for AQAP.
"Weapons looted by mujahideen of Ansar al Sharia from the Houthis - Radaa."
[Note: The stickers on the rifles and magazines show images of Houthi leader Abdul Malik al Houthi as well as the Houthi logo "Allahu Akbar, Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse Upon the Jews, Victory to Islam."]
November 18, 2014 12:01 PM
By Bill Roggio
We've written quite a bit about the Pakistani military and political establishment's support of or indifference to the so-called "good Taliban," or the Taliban and jihadist groups that do not wage jihad inside Pakistan yet enable those groups that do. In fact, our reporting on this subject is the primary reason that the Pakistani government has banned The Long War Journal inside its country.
Yesterday, Sartaj Aziz, the adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs to Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, spoke about this issue. The report on his talk, from Dawn, is republished below. Aziz is smart enough to not voice his support of the good Taliban -- groups such as the Haqqani Network and the Hafiz Gul Bahadar Group, both of which wage jihad against the US in Afghanistan while sheltering and supporting al Qaeda and other international jihadist groups. Instead, Aziz makes the "it's not our problem" argument:
Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz on Monday said that Pakistan should not target militants who do not threaten the country's security.
For longtime readers of The Long War Journal, Aziz's comments should come as no surprise. Since the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, Pakistan has operated just as Aziz articulated yesterday.
November 16, 2014 7:49 AM
By Caleb Weiss
The Islamic State has released new photographs showing heavy fighting in the central Iraqi city of Ramadi. More than half of Ramadi is said to be under the control of the Islamic State.
The images were disseminated on Twitter by Islamic State supporters after being posted elsewhere on the Internet. The jihadist group has taken to releasing its propaganda via its supporters on Twitter, as the majority of its official accounts are continuously being suspended by the social media site.
The photos bear the title of "Wilayat Anbar," one of the Islamic State's 18 declared provinces.
The pictures appear to show heavy street fighting, with small arms fire from both AK-47 assault rifles and PK machine guns. Several photos showcase the use of rocket launchers and mortars. In one photograph, the Islamic State demonstrates the use of an American made Humvee to fire on Iraqi military or Sunni tribal militia positions. Ramadi is at the epicenter of the Sahwa (Awakening) movement and is home to Ahmed Abu Risha, a powerful tribal leader and key US ally. The Abu Risha and other Sunni Anbar tribes have been fighting alongside the Iraqi military in Ramadi, Amiriyat al Fallujah, Haditha, and other towns and cities throughout the province.
Ramadi, the provincial capital of Anbar, is currently besieged by the Islamic State. While reporting has been sparse recently, the jihadist group is said to control around 60 percent of the city. The southern districts of Al Tam'im, Mua'almim, Thubat, and 5 Kilo, in addition to the 7 Kilo and Albu Aytha areas west and north of the city, are either contested or under Islamic State control. Iraqi security forces are said to be concentrated at the Anbar Operations Command Center, which is north of the Euphrates River. [For more information, see LWJ reports, Islamic State photos highlight group's grip on Ramadi and Islamic State ambushes Iraqi military column near Ramadi.]
November 13, 2014 11:45 AM
By Oren Adaki
Source: Al Malehem Media Foundation via Twitter
On Nov. 12, a Twitter account linked to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) released a video interview with Jalal al Marqishi, also known as Hamza al Zinjibari, in which the AQAP commander talks about recent developments in the fight against the Shiite Houthi rebels and comments on the nature of the US-Houthi relationship.
Al Marqishi speaks of a "quantum leap" achieved by the efforts of the jihadists in their ongoing battle against the sweeping military advances of the Houthis, whom AQAP deems to be heretic. He claims that recent AQAP operations throughout the country have forced the Houthis to retreat and and given AQAP the upper hand.
Al Mariqishi makes specific reference to an operation earlier this month in which the AQAP fighters stormed Houthi positions in Radaa from three directions, and notes that the attack enabled the jihadists to reach the "depth of the city" and forced the Houthis to retreat to its outskirts. Al Marqishi also cites the triple suicide attack carried out by a four-man team of AQAP fighters on Nov. 8 in the Manasseh area of Radaa. During that attack, four AQAP fighters stormed a local school, believed by AQAP to be used as a Houthi gathering point and weapons storage facility, and immediately clashed with the Houthis on site. The first AQAP attacker launched a missile at a Houthi checkpoint in front of the school and subsequently detonated his suicide belt amid a Houthi crowd, killing some 25 people immediately. Two other suicide bombers also detonated their explosives shortly after the first, while the fourth AQAP attacker managed to emerge unscathed from the clashes at the school that lasted for about 12 hours.
Marqishi goes on to claim that in a battle that occurred just an hour before the recording of the interview, AQAP repelled a Houthi advance on the town of Khabza in the Radaa region, killing more than 30 Houthis and taking an impressive cache of weapons as booty.
At this juncture, Marqishi turns to address suspicions of possible US-Houthi collusion against AQAP. He claims that the UN Special Adviser on Yemen, Jamal Benomar, is a "broker" between the US and the Houthis who personally oversaw the Houthi takeover of Sanaa and many other Yemeni cities and military bases.
Al Marqishi explicitly claims that the US has been providing direct air support for the Houthis by using drone strikes to facilitate Houthi advances against AQAP. To prove this theory, he cites the Oct. 24 drone strike in Manasseh targeting AQAP fighters, noting that it paved the way for the Houthis to take the area. Additionally, al Marqishi says that during fierce battles in Radaa between AQAP and Houthi forces, US drone strikes killed prominent members of the terrorist organization, including Shawki al Ba'adani, Abu Osama al Hodeidi, Abu Osama al Sana'ani, and Muhid al Qurashi. Later the same night, additional US drone strikes killed Nabil al Dahab and Maysar al Adani, as well as other AQAP supporters from the town of Khabza.
Al Marqishi concludes this section of his interview by emphasizing the veracity of US-Houthi cooperation. He says, "We confirm by way of field information and information reported to us that this agreement is true and we have witnessed its reality."
In the final section of his interview, al Marqishi addresses the role of Yemen's Sunni tribes in AQAP's campaign against the rebels. He notes that the Sunni tribes play a large role in the campaign and provides examples of tribal efforts to stem the Houthi advance. Al Marqishi cites the Sunni tribes' pushing the Houthis out of Jawf province, as well as the Tayfa tribe of Radaa who "fight alongside the mujahideen."
Al Marqishi addresses Yemen's Sunni tribesmen, saying, "We would like to tell the Sunni tribes that the American and Iranian project is a singular project that seeks to humiliate the Sunni tribes, control their land, and enable the rafidha [derogatory word for Shiites] to take Yemen."
In an effort to paint the current Houthi rebellion as inherently sectarian in nature, al Marqishi claims that the Houthis have prevented Sunnis from attending Friday prayers in areas they control and have even stripped Sunni tribesmen of their arms.
Al Marqishi concludes his interview by calling on the Sunni tribes to support AQAP's offensive against the Houthis. "We call upon all tribes to be cohesive and work shoulder to shoulder with the mujahideen to fight the rafidhi [Shiite] Houthis because there is an international conspiracy against the Sunnis," al Marqishi says. "The Sunni tribes must realize this and gather around the mujahideen."
November 12, 2014 12:21 PM
By Caleb Weiss
Fighters from the al Qaeda-affiliated Turkistan Islamic Party have allegedly been photographed on the battlefields of northern Syria. The picture above was posted to Twitter by Israfil Yilmaz, a popular jihadist figure fighting in Syria. Yilmaz wrote in the tweet: "No passports, undercover through more than 6 countries. Lions from the Turkistan region: Al Hizb Islami Turkistan [Turkistan Islamic Party ]."
Yilmaz is a Dutch citizen of Turkish origin. He is a former member of the Royal Dutch Armed Forces, as well as the Turkish military. On his now suspended Ask.fm account, he claimed to have been in Syria for more than two years and he does not consider himself a member of any group. According to From Chechnya to Syria, Yilmaz has previously fought alongside Sayfullah Shishani's jamaat, a predominately Chechen faction of the Al Nusrah Front. It is also clear from an interview he conducted with a Dutch channel (the video is in Turkish) that Yilmaz has acted as a military trainer.
The Turkistan Islamic Party operates in China as well as Central and South Asia and is thought to have scores of fighters in Pakistan's tribal areas and in Afghanistan. Its fighters have been killed by Coalition forces in Afghanistan and by US drone strikes in Pakistan. A senior al Qaeda leader has eulogized Turkistan Islamic Party operatives killed in Afghanistan and Pakistan. For more information on the group's operations, see the LWJ report, Turkistan Islamic Party touts suicide bombings in Afghanistan.
November 11, 2014 4:13 PM
By Caleb Weiss
The Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda's official affiliate in Syria, has released both video and pictures detailing a large military parade in Idlib province. The media were released through Nusrah's Twitter feed for its Idlib operations. The pictures bear the caption of "Men of Tawhid [monotheism] and belief in the abodes of Islam," while the video bears the title of "Jabhat al Nusrah, protectors of the mouths of Muslims in Idlib".
The column includes light vehicles, such as SUVs, Jeeps, technicals (armed pickup trucks) and vans, mixed in with heavy vehicles. Several T-72 tanks are shown, as well as a pair of 2S1 Gvozdika self-propelled howitzers, BMPs (infantry fighting vehicles), and several large trucks.
Some unconfirmed reports allege that the parade showcased vehicles captured from recent fighting with the US-backed Syrian Revolutionaries Front (SRF). Earlier this month, Al Nusrah and its allies, including Jund al Aqsa, drove the SRF out of its stronghold in Deir Sonbol in the Jabal al Zawiya area of Idlib.
A Nusrah fighter claimed on Twitter that the vehicles were indeed captured from the SRF. However, Al Nusrah has not released an official statement confirming or denying this report nor were the pictures captioned to say that the vehicles were taken from the SRF. The Nusrah fighter is also not an official within the group.
Pictures released by Al Nusrah:
November 10, 2014 11:23 AM
By Oren Adaki
Turki al Asiri, a.k.a. Marwan al Makki. Source: Twitter.
Circumstances of death
The AQAP statement claims that at 3:00 a.m. on Nov. 7, a Yemeni counterterrorism unit accompanied by "people speaking Arabic in a foreign language" attacked Turki al Asiri's residence in Yemen's southern port city of Aden. The statement suggested that the Yemeni unit used an explosive to gain entry to the residence before storming in and clashing with al Asiri for several minutes prior to his being killed.
The firefight inside al Asiri's house apparently woke up his neighbors, who watched from their windows as the Yemeni forces carried several corpses outside of the house before leaving the scene. About three hours later, additional Yemeni forces allegedly arrived and "stole" the personal belongings of those who lived in the house, including such items as "women's gold."
The statement additionally notes that AQAP's retelling of Asiri's death is at odds with the official narrative relayed by the media. According to the reports promulgated by the Yemeni Ministry of Defence, Asiri was killed by security forces at a checkpoint in the Tabin region of Lahj province.
Turki al Asiri's biography
A Saudi Arabian national, al Asiri traveled to Afghanistan in 2001, where he received instruction at "mujahideen training camps." Al Asiri fought against the Americans following the US invasion of Afghanistan and even participated in the battles at Tora Bora alongside Osama bin Laden. Al Asiri fled to Pakistan like many al Qaeda operatives, and he was held captive by the Pakistani regime for a time before being handed over to the Americans. According to his biography in the AQAP statement, the US detained al Asiri in Kandahar before transferring him to "the infamous Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba where he remained for nearly six years." The US then reportedly handed al Asiri to Saudi Arabia, where he was detained for a period before being "temporarily" released.
In 2008, al Asiri made his way to Yemen accompanied by Sa'id al Shihri, who would soon become AQAP's deputy, and quickly joined the ranks of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Due to his terrorist activities, Saudi Arabia listed al Asiri among the country's 85 most wanted individuals. Al Asiri eventually became AQAP's emir for Lahj province, and his biography praises him for not leaving this post until he was martyred.
The AQAP biography describes al Asiri as a gentle and humble man who reserved his sternness and gravity for "the enemies of Allah, the infidels." He is reported to have told his American jailers, "I am a mujahid from al Qaeda, I have fought you and will continue to fight you, with Allah's permission." He was known to carry out and orchestrate a variety of attacks in Lahj province, including raids, assassinations, and bombing attacks. His biography concludes by saying, "he ended his life the way he lived it - fighting valiantly and not surrendering himself to his enemies."
November 7, 2014 12:02 PM
By Caleb Weiss
Alleged video of slain Al Nusrah bomb maker David Drugeon's vehicle, taken by Syrian activists in Sarmada, Idlib
Video surfaced on Facebook late Nov. 5 alleging to show the aftermath of a United States airstrike in Idlib. A number of recent airstrikes, as we now know, were targeting the Khorasan Group, a collection of al Qaeda veterans embedded within the Al Nusrah Front.
US Central Command announced that "US military forces conducted airstrikes last night against five Khorasan Group targets in the vicinity of Sarmada, Syria, using bomber, fighter and remotely piloted aircraft" in a press release yesterday.
"We are still assessing the outcome of the attack, but have initial indications that it resulted in the intended effects by striking terrorists and destroying or severely damaging several Khorasan Group vehicles and buildings assessed to be meeting and staging areas, IED-making facilities and training facilities," the release continued.
Fox News reported that David Drugeon, a French defector to al Qaeda and a master bomb maker, was targeted in the airstrikes.
"The drone struck a vehicle traveling in Syria's Idlib province that was believed to be carrying Drugeon. The driver of the vehicle is thought to have lost a leg and was expected to die, according to sources with knowledge of the operation. A second person thought to be Drugeon was killed, according to well-placed military sources," Fox News reported.
Local activists reported that a destroyed vehicle at the scene of the strike belonged to an Al Nusrah Front official.
Based on the video above, the viewer can see that the vehicle was hit with precision, as nothing surrounding it appeared to be damaged. Furthermore, US Central Command confirmed that airstrikes did occur in the town of Samarda. The video above could possibly show the vehicle in which Drugeon was traveling when he was allegedly killed.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported that the Islamic Front's Ahrar al Sham, an al Qaeda ally, was also targeted. SOHR said that an Ahrar headquarters was targeted near the Bab al Hawa border crossing. This seems to fit a report made by an Ahrar fighter on the night of the strikes which said that an Ahrar arms depot near Bab al Hawa was targeted. A video was also posted to YouTube from an alleged Ahrar member delivering a similar statement.
CENTCOM did not state that it targeted Ahrar al Sham in the Nov. 5 airstrikes. Ahrar al Sham is closely allied with the Al Nusrah Front.
November 6, 2014 9:28 AM
By Caleb Weiss
A video released by an Islamic State media wing detailed the battle for Kobane from the group's perspective. The video was uploaded to YouTube and Dailymotion and was then disseminated on Twitter by the group's supporters. The terror group has taken to spreading its propaganda that way as Twitter has cracked down on official Islamic State accounts. The YouTube link will likely be taken down soon.
The video, which is just under 21 minutes, features an explanation of who the Kurdish defenders are and a justification as to why the jihadist group is fighting them. The Islamic State claims that the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the PKK's Syrian affiliate, People's Protection Units (YPG), are founded on "atheism and the denial of Allah's lordship and godhood," "socialism with regards to wealth and promiscuity with regards to chastity," and "Kurdish nationalism as a basis for the establishment of a state." The video mentions that Kurds, elements of the Free Syrian Army, and elements of the Islamic Front formed an "operations room" north of Aleppo to fight the Islamic State.
The "operations room," which is not a physical room but a general coordination of military activity, is called Burkan al Furat (Euphrates Volcano). The propaganda states that the Kurds in Kobane and the Euphrates Volcano wanted to fight the Islamic State to expel it from areas near the Euphrates River. These statements are presented as a justification for the Islamic State's attack on Kobane.
The rest of the video shows Islamic State fighters battling on the outskirts of Kobane using howitzers and tanks. Several shots also depict Islamic State fighters using small arms to battle the Kurds both on the outskirts of Kobane and within the city. Throughout the video, several shots of dead Kurdish fighters are shown.
A number of scenes show the Islamic State destroying alcoholic beverages, drugs, and cigarettes from Kurdish houses seized in the fighting. The video also highlights several suicide bombers who were used in assaulting the city. Before the video ends, it features part of an audio speech released in late September by Islamic State spokesman Abu Muhammad al Adnani.
November 6, 2014 12:01 AM
By Bill Roggio
Yesterday, Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement protesting the US Department of Defense's biannual report titled "Progress Towards Security and Stability in Afghanistan." In the report, dated October of this year, the DoD notes that Pakistan continues to serve as a safe haven for the Taliban and other jihadist groups and that the Pakistani government often uses some terrorist organizations as proxies. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement is reproduced below, in full:
The Government of Pakistan takes serious exception to comments contained in the US Department of Defence report sent to the Congress under the title "Progress Towards Security and Stability in Afghanistan". While noting Pakistan's cooperation with the US in areas of mutual interests, the recently-released report also carries unsubstantiated allegations of the existence of terrorist "sanctuaries" or that proxy forces are operating from here against Afghanistan and India. Pakistan's protest over these unwarranted comments was conveyed by the Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Mr. Sartaj Aziz to the US Ambassador Richard Olson at the Foreign Ministry today.
This is what the Progress Towards Security and Stability in Afghanistan report stated about Pakistan [emphasis mine]:
The Haqqani Network remained the most potent strain of the insurgency and the greatest risk to U.S. and coalition forces due to its focus on high-profile attacks. The Haqqani Network and affiliated groups share the goals of expelling U.S. and coalition forces, destabilizing the Afghan government, and reestablishing an Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. They will likely remain the most significant threat to coalition forces in the post-2014 non-combat mission, especially if they are not denied sanctuary in Pakistan.
Nonetheless, Afghan-focused militants continue to operate from Pakistan territory to the detriment of Afghan and regional stability. During this reporting period, however, ongoing Pakistani military operations in North Waziristan disrupted militant networks that relied on this area for safe haven and slowed extremist attack plotting in Afghanistan. Senior Pakistani officials have publicly committed to holding this cleared territory, preventing militant returns, and building a more cooperative relationship with Afghan counterparts along the border.
This is the section that must have really upset the Pakistani government:
The United States continues to seek a constructive relationship with Pakistan that advances both U.S. and Pakistani interests. Pakistan's relationship with the United States remains constructive, and both nations continue to acknowledge the importance of maintaining bilateral cooperation in areas of mutual concern and engaging on areas of divergence. Taliban attacks in Afghanistan launched from sanctuaries in Pakistan remain a serious problem. These sanctuaries exist primarily in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Baluchistan.
To summarize, the Pakistani government dislikes the fact that the US is pointing out what the entire world knows:
1) The Federally Administered Tribal Agencies (North and South Waziristan, etc.) remain a sanctuary for jihadist groups despite Pakistani military operations.
2) The Pakistani military and government continue to use jihadist groups as strategic depth against India as well as the US.
I would argue that the Pakistani government would have been better served ignoring the report altogether rather than drawing attention to it. In fact, the report is quite soft on Pakistan and its duplicity in supporting jihadist groups. If you knew nothing about Pakistan and read this report, you'd think that there is a jihadist problem in the FATA and the Pakistani establishment is backing some militant elements to hedge against India but the problem is manageable.
The reality is, however, that the problem in Pakistan remains far, far greater than that portrayed in the DoD report on Afghanistan. For instance, the report ignores the fact that the Afghan Taliban have a massive safe haven in Pakistan's Baluchistan province that is used to support the group's operations in southern, eastern, central, and western Afghanistan. Training camps, recruiting centers, and support nodes are strewn throughout Baluchistan, particularly in districts that border Afghanistan.
The Afghan Taliban's governing body is called the Quetta Shura because it has been based in the provincial capital of Quetta. The Quetta Shura is said to have relocated to Karachi in Sindh province at some point over the past several years. But the Taliban maintain a significant presence in Quetta regardless.
Furthermore, the report doesn't note that Lashkar-e-Taiba, the al Qaeda-linked jihadist group that has a pervasive presence throughout the country, is backed by Pakistan's elites. Lashkar-e-Taiba runs a massive complex at Muridke near Lahore that is used to train its operatives. Despite the fact that the jihadist group executed the 2008 assault in Mumbai, it is permitted to operate openly within Pakistan. Its members are above the law, such as it exists.
An alphabet soup of jihadist groups -- Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, Harakat-ul-Mujahideen, etc. -- have a presence throughout the country and also operate with either the direct support or permission of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate. All of these groups are allied with al Qaeda, and some likely have joined the group's newest affiliate, al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent.
In addition, the Pakistani offensive in North Waziristan isn't "directed against all militants, without any distinction," as the Pakistani government claims. The military has targeted the "bad Taliban," jihadist groups such as the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, while ignoring the "good Taliban" such as the Haqqani Network and the Hafiz Gul Bahadar Group. The former are "bad" because they wage jihad against the state, and the latter are "good" because they wage jihad against the US, Afghanistan, and India.
These examples barely scratch the surface when it comes to Pakistan and its complicity in supporting terrorist groups. As noted earlier, Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs would have been better off ignoring the report rather than reminding people about the country's role in supporting the international jihad.
Al Nusrah Front, Jund al Aqsa fighters photographed in Syrian Revolutionaries Front stronghold in Idlib
November 3, 2014 1:18 PM
By Caleb Weiss
Pictures released online and distributed through various Twitter accounts allegedly show jihadist Jund al Aqsa and Al Nusrah Front fighters in Jabal al Zawiya, Syria, which had previously been a stronghold for Jamaal Maarouf and his western-backed Syrian Revolutionaries Front (SRF).
In an assault that began last week, the Al Nusrah Front, al Qaeda's official branch in Syria, supported by Jund al Aqsa, targeted the SRF and seized parts of its territory in Idlib province. On Nov. 1, the two jihadist groups pushed even further into SRF territory and effectively consolidated their control. The offensive kicked the SRF out of its major strongholds in Idlib, including Deir Sonbol, a village that served as a base of operations for the organization and its leader, Jamal Maarouf.
Jund al Aqsa, which means "soldiers of al Aqsa", is a jihadist group fighting in Syria that is comprised mainly of foreign fighters; many of its fighters are Arabs from other Middle Eastern countries. The group does have a Syrian component, however. Jund al Aqsa often fights alongside Al Nusrah and Ahrar al Sham and is a member of the jihadist Muhajirin wa Ansar Alliance (not to be confused with Jaish al Muhajireen wal Ansar).
The released pictures detail Jund al Aqsa and Al Nusrah fighters in the village of Deir Sonbol and the wider Jabal al Zawiya region of Idlib. The photos showcase the fighters allegedly pulling up bodies from a well, a room where the SRF kept civilians and Islamic State fighters prisoner, and an alleged dungeon. Other photos show a destroyed jeep, an SRF flag burning, and piles of aid packages that were stockpiled by the SRF. One photo purports to be taken in the house of Jamaal Maarouf.
Al Nusrah has also released several pictures on one of its Twitter accounts purporting to show bodies in the aforementioned well. Video has also emerged that allegedly shows other bodies pulled up from the well. (The video is graphic and should be viewed with discretion.)
November 3, 2014 10:21 AM
By Oren Adaki
Over the weekend, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) carried out a series of attacks in three Yemeni coastal provinces in the south and west of the country, including a coordinated attack in Hodeidah province, which is currently under Houthi rebel control.
During the evening of Oct. 30, suspected AQAP gunmen riding a motorbike shot an intelligence officer in Lahj province. The drive-by shooting took place in the provincial capital of al Houta and the officer, Fadl al Majidi, was killed instantly by the attack. Security sources in Lahj claimed that the assailants managed to flee the scene.
Concurrently, a similar attack in Abyan province claimed the life of a Yemeni soldier. The soldier was shot dead as he was returning to the military barracks from the public market in the city of Mahfad, long considered to be an AQAP stronghold.
A few days later, during the night between Nov. 1 and Nov. 2, AQAP fighters launched a coordinated attack on the Jabal al Ras district in southeastern Hodeidah province. Local residents told the media that the fighters coming from the Wisab district of neighboring Dhamar province arrived in Jabal al Ras at around 5:00 p.m. on Nov. 1.
The mujahideen then allegedly divided into two groups - one to attack the main security headquarters in the area and another to target checkpoints. The first group of jihadists assaulted the security headquarters building with various forms of artillery. Arabic media reports indicated that the AQAP fighters managed to take control of the building following intense clashes with security personnel on site.
According to locals in the area, the second group of mujahideen staged an ambush of Yemeni reinforcement units mobilized from a Special Forces checkpoint in the area. After attacking the Yemeni soldiers, this second group of AQAP fighters then stormed the Special Forces checkpoint.
Arabic media reports claim that between 13 and 18 Yemenis were killed in the attacks in Jabal al Ras, with some reports detailing the casualties as nine Special Forces soldiers, seven general security forces soldiers, one Yemeni soldier, and one small business owner killed.
Some reports suggested that the Jabal al Ras municipal security director, Mansour Abu Hadi, was wounded in the AQAP attacks. Additionally, other media reports claim that Abu Hadi's son was among those killed in the attacks. Three AQAP fighters were reported killed in the Jabal al Ras campaign.
Media reports also indicate that AQAP fighters took a number of Yemeni soldiers captive during their assault. While many reports claimed that 15 soldiers were taken, others put the figure at only three.
By early morning on Nov. 2, AQAP fighters withdrew from Jabal al Ras, apparently due to the large presence of local residents and tribesmen opposed to their campaign. Later in the day, reports emerged that Houthi rebels had consolidated their control over the area, filling the vacuum left by the jihadists' withdrawal.
AQAP's westward push into Hodeidah province comes just weeks following the Houthi rebels' swift seizure of the significant port city of Hodeidah on the Red Sea coast as well as the central city of Dhamar. Over the past month, AQAP has been challenging the Houthi advance throughout the country and staging attacks in strategic locations seized by the rebels. After the Houthis took Ibb province in mid-October, AQAP fighters attacked and seized Al Adayn in southwestern Ibb.
The recent campaign in Jabal al Ras, right over the Ibb-Hodeidah border, is yet another instance of AQAP bringing the fight to the Houthis and sustaining its armed challenge to the Shiite rebels' growing power in Yemen.
November 2, 2014 3:09 PM
By Caleb Weiss
The Islamic State has released pictures showing its capture of large parts of the al Shaer gas field in the eastern part of Homs province in Syria. The field is due east of the ancient city of Palmyra. The photos were disseminated on Twitter by the jihadist group's supporters after being posted elsewhere online. The Islamic State has taken to releasing its propaganda this way after the social media site began to crack down on its official accounts.
The photos bear the title of Wilayat Homs, as the gas field is part of that declared administrative division of the Islamic State.
The pictures were released in two separate photo sets. The first set shows many destroyed tanks of the Syrian regime, as well as several dead regime fighters. Other images show the Islamic State's "spoils" from overrunning the Syrian Army forces, including many rockets, mortars, and vehicles, as well as ammunition. The jihadist group also claims to have captured five tanks and two BMPs (Russian-made infantry fighting vehicles) from the regime. The remaining pictures show that the Islamic State has taken control of the Hayan Gas Plant.
The second release of pictures shows more clashes with the regime in the gas field, including the use of what appears to be a Soviet-made D30 howitzer. Other photographs show the use of heavily armed technicals (pickup trucks fitted with weapons in the bed) and mortars. The Islamic State claimed to have captured two more tanks, several technicals, and various heavy weaponry from the regime. The last few pictures show that the jihadist group has captured the Jahar Gas Plant. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a UK-based group, said that more than 30 soldiers from the regime were killed in clashes with the Islamic State in the Shaer gas field.
The field has changed hands several times throughout the war. In July, the Islamic State briefly took Shaer after possibly killing hundreds of regime soldiers. At the time, Al Arabiya reported that "at least 270 people [were] killed after fighters belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria seized a gas field in central Syria." The report also noted that SOHR said, "The fate of 340 National Defence Force (paramilitary) members, guards, engineers and employees who were in the field, is unknown, as they were either taken prisoner, wounded or captured during the operation."
The Islamic State controls various oil and natural gas fields, refineries, and production facilities in Iraq and Syria. The United States and coalition partners have targeted Islamic State-held oil assets in both countries.
Pictures from the first set:
Pictures from the second set:
October 31, 2014 10:07 AM
By Bill Roggio
Yesterday, after the US launched a drone strike in South Waziristan that reportedly killed a Haqqani Network commander known as Abdullah Haqqani and an al Qaeda leader, the spokeswoman for Pakistan's Foreign Ministry condemned the attack. From a transcript provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs:
First about the drone strike this morning, the Government of Pakistan condemns the US drone strike that took place on 0200 hours at Azam Warsak, South Waziristan on 30 October 2014. Pakistan has consistently maintained that such strikes are a violation of its sovereignty and territorial integrity. The Government of Pakistan is itself taking decisive action against terrorist elements and therefore believes that such strikes are unnecessary and need to be stopped.Yesterday's condemnation of the US campaign to kill members al Qaeda and other jihadist groups that pose a threat not just to the West, but to the Pakistani state, isn't the first. Pakistan routinely denounces US airstrikes as "a violation of its sovereignty and territorial integrity."
The Pakistani government even denounced a US strike that killed Hakeemullah Mehsud, the previous leader of the al Qaeda-linked Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan who was responsible for the deaths of thousands of Pakistanis. [See Threat Matrix report, Pakistan condemns drone strike that killed Hakeemullah Mehsud.]
But more often, the Pakistani government gets upset about the strikes that killed members of the so-called "good Taliban," or the Taliban that don't openly advocate jihad against the Pakistani state. For instance, when a US drone strike killed three Haqqani Network leaders, including a top commander who is said to be a senior financier and aide to the group's operational leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani, the Foreign Affairs Ministry was quick to respond. [See Threat Matrix report, Pakistan 'strongly condemns' drone strike that killed Haqqani Network leaders.]
It doesn't seem to matter much to the Pakistani government and military that the good Taliban, such as the Haqqani Network or those loyal to Hafiz Gul Bahadar, aid, shelter, and support al Qaeda, the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, and a host of other jihadist groups. What does appear to matter to the Pakistani decision makers is that the good Taliban wage jihad in Afghanistan and serve as strategic depth against India.
October 30, 2014 10:53 AM
By Oren Adaki
Mousa bin Abdallah Zahmi al Shihri, also known as Abu al Baraa al Adnani, was born to a conservative religious family and raised in Riyadh. Mousa subsequently relocated to the town of Tanoumah in southeastern Saudi Arabia and joined the Saudi military after completing his schooling there. He reportedly served in the military "till Allah graced him and removed him from the ranks of the friends of the devil to the ranks of the friends of the Merciful [Allah]."
According to the eulogy, Mousa al Shihri was arrested without charge by Saudi intelligence in 2004 in order to pressure his brother Youssef, who was wanted by the authorities, into surrendering himself. Mousa's time in prison is described as "good for him," and when he was able to contact his family following several months of incarceration, he was informed of the birth of his son Baraa.
Mousa's eulogy claims that the Saudi intelligence services' plot to force his brother Youssef to surrender himself failed miserably, and that therefore the Saudis arranged a family visit for Mousa under the guise of humanitarianism and human rights. Once his family arrived for the visit, they were all detained "as hostages" by the Saudi authorities. Although Mousa and his older brother Abd al Rahman were already in prison, authorities "held a whole family captive ... forcing Youssef to turn himself in with this criminal act." When the inmates demanded the release of Mousa's family, Saudi authorities let them go after they promised that Youssef would turn himself in.
The eulogy notes that the dramatic story regarding Mousa's brother Youssef caused some to wonder about the identity of this vague character. Due to the Saudi authorities' efforts to detain him, some even believed that he might be Youssef al Ayeri, the leader of al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia who was killed in 2003. The eulogy explains that Mousa's brother was wanted not for any crime he committed, but rather due to information he had about other wanted individuals in Saudi Arabia. When Youssef discovered the fate of his brother Mousa and his family at the hands of the Saudi authorities, he allegedly surrendered himself and became the third Shihri brother imprisoned in Saudi Arabia.
Mousa al Shihri was not released after Youssef turned himself in, and spent close to eight years in a Saudi jail. During his imprisonment, Mousa memorized the Qur'an and delved into Islamic studies while he was subjected to false charges and torture regularly. The three Shihri brothers were separated in prison, with Abd al Rahman in Alisha prison in Riyadh, and Mousa and Youssef in separate cells in the Asir prison.
In 2011, Mousa was released, and two months later he "joined his mujahideen brothers" in Yemen. Although he had been away from his family for close to eight years, Mousa hastened to the jihad "because he carried the concern of the ummah [Muslim nation] in his heart, and especially the case of the prisoners."
Mousa al Shihri's eulogy concludes by noting that he was one of the six fighters who took part in the raid "on the dens of evil and corruption who took revenge for the female captives, and Allah granted him martyrdom on the land that he desired."
October 30, 2014 10:20 AM
By Bill Roggio & Caleb Weiss
The Islamic State has released photographs showing its forces engaged in combat with the Iraqi military and their tribal allies in Amiriyat al Fallujah in eastern Anbar province. The photos were disseminated on Twitter by the jihadist group's supporters after being posted elsewhere online. The Islamic State has taken to releasing its propaganda this way after the social media site began to crackdown on its official accounts.
The pictures bear the title of Wilayat al Fallujah, which is one of the Islamic State's proclaimed administrative districts in Iraq. The Wilayat is one of their newest districts and is one of the three that make up Iraq's Anbar Province. The three are Wilayat Anbar, Wilayat al Fallujah, and Wilayat al Furat (Euphrates Province), which includes the towns of Al Qaim in Iraq and Albu Kamal in eastern Syria.
The images show fierce firefights between the Islamic State and Iraqi military personnel or their tribal allies. Several pictures showcase their snipers, while others focus on troops armed with PK machine guns, AK-47, or US-made assault rifles. Other pictures detail mortars being fired on Iraqi military positions, as well as M113 armored personnel carriers being used as vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices.
Amiriyat al Fallujah is a town just 30 kilometers south east of Fallujah. The Islamic State has surrounded the town and laid siege to it. Iraqi security forces holed up in the town have repelled several assaults by the Islamic State over the past few weeks.
The town is on the Euphrates River and links Anbar province with Jurf al Sakhar in northern Babil. If the Islamic State is able to control Amiriyat al Fallujah and Jurf al Sakhar, it is able to link its forces in the two provinces and put pressure on the capital of Baghdad as well as the Shiite holy cities of Karbala and Najaf.
Iraqi forces, spearheaded by Iranian-backed Shia militias, recently took control of Jurf al Sakhar, however the town has changed hands multiple times since the beginning of this year. The Iraqi military has claimed it will launch an operation to clear the Islamic State from Amiriyat al Fallujah.
Pictures released by the Islamic State from Amiriyat al Fallujah:
The next seven pictures showcase M113 armored personnel carriers being used as VBIEDs. The pictures are captioned "First Martyr" (two pictures), "Second Martyr" (two pictures), "Third Martyr" (one picture) and "Fourth Martyr" (two pictures) respectively.
October 26, 2014 1:37 PM
By Caleb Weiss
The Islamic State, in the wake of the Iraqi military claiming to have retaken the town of Jurf al Sahkar in northern Babil province, has released photos purporting to show their fighters in action against the Iraqi military and Shiite militias. The pictures were disseminated on Twitter by the jihadist group's supporters after being posted elsewhere online. The Islamic State has taken to releasing its propaganda this way after the social media site began to crackdown on its official accounts.
The pictures bear the title of Wilayat Junub (southern province), as the Iraqi province of Babil makes up this administrative district of the Islamic State.
The Iraqi military, backed by Iranian-supported Shiite militias, claimed to have cleared the Islamic State from Jurf al Sahkar, a contested town in northern Babil province, on Oct. 25 after heavy fighting. Iraqi officials said that 300 Islamic State fighters and 67 soldiers and Shiite militiamen were killed. [See LWJ report, Iraqi forces, Kurds claim success against Islamic State near Baghdad and Mosul.]
It is unclear if these pictures were taken recently or they are old file pictures meant to give the illusion that Islamic State fighters are still in Jurf al Sahkar. Some supporters of the group have discussed on Twitter that fighters do indeed remain in the town battling the Iraqi military and their Shiite militia allies. In the past eight months, the Iraqi military has claimed to have liberated Jurf al Sakhar numerous times. [See LWJ report, US air campaign against Islamic State expands to southwestern Baghdad]
Below are the pictures from Jurf al Sahkar:
Al Nusrah Front, Jund al Aqsa fighters photographed in Syrian Revolutionaries Front stronghold in Idlib