ISIS targets elections in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s goons are conducting a campaign of terror against elections in several countries. Thus far, they have claimed operations targeting election facilities, candidates and officials in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

On Apr. 22, Islamic State spokesman Abu al-Hasan al-Muhajir threatened anyone who participated in Iraq’s upcoming election on May 12. Upholding his organization’s longstanding condemnation of democratic elections, the ISIS spokesman argued that anyone who assists the voting process “assumes responsibility for” it and is going to be held accountable under the “same [religious] ruling” as those holding the votes. The “voting centers and those present within them are a target for our swords, so stay far away from them and avoid getting close to them,” al-Muhajir warned. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Analysis: Islamic State spokesman says ‘new phase’ of jihad has begun.]

Similarly, the so-called caliphate’s propagandists have released threatening infographics and messages intended to intimidate anyone who dares to defy its anti-electoral commandment.

The threat was not an empty one.

On the same day as al-Muhajir’s speech, a suicide bomber dispatched by the Islamic State’s Khorasan “province” struck a voter registration center in Kabul. Dozens were killed, including women and children, and more than 100 others were wounded in the blast. The Sunni jihadists identified the victims as Shiite “polytheists” and, therefore, condemned them to death on sectarian grounds.

On May 2, two jihadists assaulted Libya’s High National Election Commission (HNEC) headquarters in Tripoli. The Islamic State’s Wilayah Tarabulus quickly claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that a pair of “inghimasi brothers,” known as Abu Ayub and Abu Tawfiq, “clashed with the guards before entering” the building and killing the “employees inside.” After “running out of ammunition,” they “detonated their explosive vests.” Inghimasis are generally well-trained fighters who immerse themselves among the enemy before carrying out a suicide attack. The Islamic State has deployed inghimasis in several countries. According to BBC News, at least 12 people were killed in the assault on the HNEC.

State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert condemned the “ISIS-claimed attack” in Tripoli. “We stand with all Libyans in the fight against terrorism and remain committed to working with the Government of National Accord to deny ISIS any safe haven in their country,” Nauert said hours after the attack.

In Dec. 2016, ISIS lost its stronghold in the city of Sirte, Libya. Since then, the group has claimed a number of operations, but at a much slower pace than at its peak. It is not clear how many ISIS fighters remain in Libya.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, the jihadists have carried out a series of operations aimed to disrupt the election process. In its daily news bulletin released earlier today, the Islamic State claimed that “multiple security units” had been dispatched to “target shirki voting centers” and other “personnel in the middle of Baghdad.” One such “security unit” purportedly “attacked a shirki voting center…with silenced weapons,” killing “two guards.” Another unit reportedly raided a “voting center…with a number of hand grenades.”

The Islamic State’s men also appear to be targeting candidates – just as al-Muhajir said they would. Earlier on May 7, Faruq Zarzur al-Juburi was killed just days before he participated in Iraq’s parliamentary election. ISIS said its assassins were responsible, but Iraqi officials disputed that claim. According to Reuters, “security officials” claimed that al-Juburi’s murder was “political” or personal in nature. His home was “near the city of Mosul,” which was one of the so-called caliphate’s two capitals at the height of its power.

The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for a string of other operations intended to disrupt Iraq’s May 12 elections. On Apr. 27, for instance, the organization’s Amaq News Agency released a short video glorifying the murder of two election workers, who were shot in the back of the head.

The Iraqi state has taken a number of steps to secure the upcoming elections, but the Islamic State is sure to test these measures.

Other jihadist groups have agitated against elections in recent weeks as well. On May 4, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s Tunisian arm, the Uqba bin Nafi Battalion, released a statement decrying elections in Tunisia and called for rule according to sharia law in the country.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

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