Posts Tagged ‘al-Nusra Front’

Islamic State Update: Hawija Falls, Final Push for Raqqa, Deir ez-Zor Fully Invested

Monday, October 9th, 2017

Quick update on the ongoing destruction of the Islamic State.

First, “Iraqi forces have driven Islamic State fighters from the northern city of Hawija, the militants’ final urban stronghold in Iraq, three years after they seized control of nearly a third of the country, the Iraqi government said Thursday.”

There’s still lots of fighting along the Euphrates, but the Islamic State doesn’t control any cities outside that region any more.

Second, the the final offensive against Islamic State holdouts in what remains of their territory in besieged Raqqa just began, with commanders of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces estimating that all of Raqqa will be liberated this week.

Third, like Raqqa, Deir ez-Zor has been completely cut off from the rest of the Islamic State by both SDF and Assad’s Syrian army. SDF also captured the Islamic State’s Deir ez-Zor headquarters.

(Pictures, as usual, from http://isis.liveuamap.com/.)

In western Syria, there are conflicting reports about the remaining Islamic State pocket near Hama there. The Syrian government claims it has destroyed the last elements of the Islamic State there, while the Islamic State claims that it is attacking and gaining ground from the Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, the rival Islamist group in the Syrian civil war that incorporates former elements of the al-Nusra Front.

In 2014, the Islamic State took and ruled vast swathes of Iraq and Syria. Now they struggle to hold on to what few cities they still control, and soon will rule over nothing at all.

Islamic State Affiliated Groups And Their Current Status

Tuesday, July 25th, 2017

According to this Intel Center list, there are currently 43 worldwide terrorist groups which have pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and the Islamic State. I started wondering how many of those were active, how many weren’t covered by that list, and what was the most recent documented activity of each. Hence this list.

I started with the Intel Center list, found the most recent activity (if any) for the group listed, added a few groups I knew they were missing, and alphabetized the whole thing (it was originally group by country). I don’t speak Arabic, so this list is not alphabetized the way an Arab scholar might alphabetize it. I’ve given alternate names and spellings where known, but this information is almost certainly not complete. I’ve tried to distinguish between similarly named groups, but it’s still entirely possibly I’ve gotten something wrong. Terrorist groups form, splinter and die-off all the time.

File all this under “first cut,” “incomplete” and “work in progress.”

  • Abu Sayyaf Group [Philippines]: Attempts to arrest Abu Sayyaf head Isnilon Hapilon are what evidently set off the fighting in Marawi City.
  • al-Ansar Battalion [Algeria]: Defectors from al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), supposedly less than 10 fighters, and I see no evidence of recent activity. Not to be confused with other jihadist al-Ansar Battalions, such as those in the Syrian Free Army or the Ma’arakat al-Ansar Battalion in the Sulu archipelago of the Philippines.
  • al-Ghurabaa [Algeria]: No recent news. Not to be confused with the UK radical islamic group of the same name.
  • al-Huda Battalion in Maghreb of Islam [Algeria]: May have been absorbed into Soldiers of the Caliphate in Algeria (see below).
  • al-Shabaab Jubba Region Cell Bashir Abu Numan [Somalia]: Bashir Abu Numan was a commander for al Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab commander who defected to the Islamic State with some 20 fighters late in 2015, and who was later killed by al-Shabaab’s Amniyat death squads. Possibly moribund.
  • al-I’tisam of the Koran and Sunnah [Sudan]: Apparently no activity since January 2016, when some of its supporters were released from prison.
  • al-Tawheed Brigade in Khorasan [Afghanistan]: Not seeing any under that name, but there’s lots of news about “Islamic State in Khorasan,” namely fierce fighting against U.S. troops over the last four months, with their leader being killed in an air strike.
  • Ansar al-Islam [Iraq]: Appears to have merged with the Islamic State proper. Not to be confused with other groups named Ansar al-Islam, including a Bangladeshi group of that name affiliated with al Qaeda.
  • Ansar al-Khilafah [Philippines]: There are reports that some 40 Ansar al-Khilafah fighters joined Maute for the assault on Marawi City.
  • Ansar al-Tawhid in India [India]: Beyond issuing a call to kill non-Muslims in 2014, it does not seem to be very active.
  • Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) [Phillippines]: BIFF is another group that seems to be participating in the fighting on Mindanao, and members were covered in a recent Filipino Department of National Defense arrest orders.
  • Bangsmoro Justice Movement (BJM) [Phillippines]: BJM is a breakaway splinter from BIFF, and does not seem to have any notable activity since pledging allegiance to the Islamic State.
  • Boko Haram (AKA the Islamic State in West Africa, AKA Group of the People of Sunnah for Preaching and Jihad) [Nigeria]: Still very active, and participated in a running gun battle with police in Kano Sunday. Estimates of Boko Haram’s size range from 4,000 to 20,000 fighters.
  • Central Sector of Kabardino-Balakria of the Caucasus Emirate [Russia]: Can’t find any recent information. Presumably defectors from the crumbling Caucasus Emirate.
  • Djamaat Houmat ad-Da’wa as-Salafiya (DHDS) [Algeria]: Another Algerian terrorist group that does not seem to have done much of anything.
  • Faction of Katibat al-Imam Bukhari [Syria]: All the reports I can fund on Katibat al-Imam Bukhari seem to refer to them as an Uzbek Islamist group, some of which seem to be fighting in Syria under Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, AKA the Al-Nusra Front, which split off from the Islamic State, was at one time affiliated with al Qaeda, and now is theoretically independent of both.
  • Heroes of Islam Brigade in Khorasan [Afghanistan]: See al-Tawheed Brigade in Khorasan.
  • Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) [Pakistan/Uzbekistan]: Actively fighting U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
  • Islamic State in Afghanistan: Not in the Intel Center list. Actively fighting against both U.S. troops and the Taliban. Reported to have ties to the Pakistani ISI, which wouldn’t surprise me at all.
  • Islamic State Libya (Darnah) [Libya]: Egyptian warplanes hit them in May in response for their involvement in killing Egyptian Copts.
  • Islamic Youth Shura Council [Libya]: Evidently still active in 2017. “Established an Islamic court and police authority in Benghazi. The group is notorious for decapitating swaths of residents from both Derna and Benghazi.”
  • Jaish al-Sahabah in the Levant [Syria]: No recent news, possibly absorbed into the Islamic State or other factions in the Syrian civil war.
  • Jamaat Ansar Bait al-Maqdis (AKA Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, AKA Wilayat Sinai, AKA Ansar Jerusalem, AKA Ansar Jerusalem, AKA Supporters of the Holy Place) [Egypt]: Turned into the Sinai Province of the Islamic State. One of its members was killed by Egyptian security forces last week.
  • Jemaah Islamiyah [Philippines/Indonesia]: Very active in various bombing campaigns in Indonesia, but have evidently been relatively quiet since 2015.
  • Jemaah Anshorut (or Jamaah Ansharut) Tauhid (JAT) [Indonesia]: Evidently the successor to several other jihadist groups in Indonesia, Stratfor describes it as “sputtering,” and the pledge of allegiance to al-Baghdadi caused several members to split into still another terrorist group.
  • Jund al-Khilafah in Egypt [Egypt]: No recent news, probably merged into the Sinai Province of the Islamic State. See Jamaat Ansar Bait al-Maqdis.
  • Jund al-Khilafah in Tunisia [Tunisia]: They recently killed the brother of a shepherd they had also killed in 2015. But the group is also said to be gathering strength in the mountains.
  • Jundullah [Pakistan]: Jundullah carried out several attacks in Pakistan between 2012 and 2015, and is thought to be a member of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan umbrella jihadi group, not all of which have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. There’s a seperate Jundallah in Iran that has pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda.
  • Khalid ibn al-Walid Army [Syria]. Not on Intel Center list. Syrian jihad group that merged with Martyrs of al-Yarmouk Brigade, also pledged loyalty to the Islamic State and reportedly controls territory in southern Syria along the Golan Heights.
  • Leaders of the Mujahid in Khorasan (ten former TTP commanders) [Pakistan]: Not finding any recent information on this splinter group.
  • Lions of Libya [Libya]: No news since they reportedly pledged their allegiance in 2014.
  • Liwa Ahrar al-Sunna in Baalbek [Lebanon]: Claimed credit for a car bomb attacked that killed a Hezbollah leader in 2014. (Remember, as a Shi’a militia/terrorist group, members of Hezbollah are automatically on the Islamic State’s “kill on sight” list.)
  • Martyrs of al-Yarmouk Brigade [Syria]: Evidently merged with other groups into the Khalid ibn al-Walid Army, which has also pledged loyalty to the Islamic State and reportedly controls territory in southern Syria.
  • Maute (AKA Islamic State in Lanao) [Philippines]: Not in the Intel Center list. The primary group responsible for the fighting in Marawi City. Reportedly led by brothers Omarkhayam and Abdullah Maute.
  • Mujahideen Indonesia Timor (MIT) (AKA East Indonesia Mujahideen EIM) [Indonesia]: Do not seem to have been active after their leader, Abu Wardah Santoso, was killed in 2016.
  • Mujahideen of Tunisia of Kairouan [Tunisia]: Not seeing any notable news since 2015, when they carried out a deadly beach attack.
  • Mujahideen of Yemen [Yemen]: Possibly absorbed into the Islamic State in Yemen (AKA Wilayat Sana) proper.
  • Mujahideen Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem (MSCJ) [Egypt/Gaza]: Intel Center says Egypt, other sources say they’re active only in Gaza. Since Hamas has not pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, they seem to have been pretty thoroughly suppressed there.
  • The Nokhchico Wilayat of the Caucasus Emirate [Russia]: Can’t find any recent information. Presumably defectors from the crumbling Caucasus Emirate.
  • Okba Ibn Nafaa Battalion [Tunisia]: Two members were killed in a raid by Tunisian forces, but they were described as “an al-Qaeda-linked group.”
  • Shura Council of Shabab al-Islam Darnah [Libya]: No news since significant defeats in 2014.
  • The Soldiers of the Caliphate in Algeria (AKA Jund al-Khilafah fi Ard al-Jazair, AKA Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – Algeria Province) [Algeria]: It’s possible that the June 6 Paris hammer attacker may have been a member. If not, they seem to have been largely ineffective. “For the past two years, the Algerian military has stopped 44 members of a local armed group called ‘Soldiers of the Caliphate’ that swore allegiance to the leader of Daesh, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.”
  • Supporters for the Islamic State in Yemen [Yemen]: Like Mujahideen of Yemen, not a lot of news.
  • Supporters of the Islamic State in the Land of the Two Holy Mosques [Saudi Arabia]: Nothing since they shot a Danish national back in 2014.
  • Tehreek-e-Khilafat [Pakistan]: Though it has roots in a movement advocating resistance to British rule during World War I, evidently Tehreek-e-Khilafat has been amalgamated into Wilayat Khorasan, the South and Central Asian “chapter” of the Islamic State, along with “Khilafat Afghan (former Afghan Taliban), the Tehreek-e-Khilafat Pakistan (former TTP), Tehreek-e-Khilafat Khorasan (former TTP), the Omar Ghazi group, the Muslimdost group, the Azizullah Haqqani group (former Afghan Taliban), the Shamali Khilafat, the Jaish-ul-Islam, the Harakat Khilafat Baluch, the Mullah Bakhtwar group (former TTP), the Jaish-ul-Islam and the China-oriented Gansu Hui group created by WK members themselves.” Together they are thought to number some 1,000-3,000 fighters.
  • Syria: Sometimes All the Options Are Bad

    Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

    Certain factions of the Washington establishment (here’s a good example) are demanding that Obama “do something” to stop the fighting around Aleppo in Syria, the “something” in this case being the threat of force, or even actual use thereof, to stop Russian airstrikes and prevent a “humanitarian disaster.” And Hillary Clinton is calling for a no-fly zone.

    To which I reply: Why?

    We can’t back the good guys in the Syrian civil war because there are no good guys. Assad’s ruling faction are scumbags. The Russians backing Assad are scumbags. Hezbollah, fighting on Assad’s side, are scumbags. The Iranian mullahs backing Assad are scumbags. Turkey is currently ruled by Erdogan’s Islamist scumbags, and Turkey is more interested in attacking the Kurds than the Islamic State. The Free Syrian Army is riddled with Islamist scumbags. The al-Nusra front are scumbags. The Islamic State is made up of the very worst scumbags in the region (and world). The only notable faction that aren’t scumbags are the Kurds, who, as an ethnic and geographic minority, are in no position to rule Syria, or even a significant fraction of it.

    To the extent that Obama’s imaginary red lines and desultory, ineffectual backing of Syrian rebel groups have harmed America’s reputation for competence in the region, the damage has already been done. (Indeed, the Obama/Clinton/Kerry strategy for fomenting regime change in the hope that things would turn out better, like a liberal funhouse mirror distorted reflection of George W. Bush’s far more limited regime change goals in Iraq, have made things worse across the region.) We have no pressing national interest at stake in the Syrian civil war, there’s not a contending faction (outside the peripherally-involved Kurds) worth backing, and it’s not apparent what such an intervention might reasonably achieve.

    All of which makes me incredulous when I read pieces that suggest that Obama is considering military actions in Syria.

    Even some on the right have been agitating for the United States to “do something” in Syria, and S. E. Cupp’s Twitter timeline has gone to an “all heart-tugging photos of Syrian children” format without saying why it is the United State’s interest to intervene in Syria or proposing anything concrete as to what form that intervention should take.

    A large part of the current push to intervene in Syria seems to be coming from an interest group called The Syria Campaign. Who is behind it?

    From that Zero Hedge piece:

    A careful look at the origins and operation of The Syria Campaign raises doubts about the outfit’s image as an authentic voice for Syrian civilians, and should invite serious questions about the agenda of its partner organizations as well.

    A creation of international PR firms

    Best known for its work on liberal social issues with well-funded progressive clients like the ACLU and the police reform group, Campaign Zero, the New York- and London-based public relations firm Purpose promises to deliver creatively executed campaigns that produce either a “behavior change,” “perception change,” “policy change” or “infrastructure change.” As the Syrian conflict entered its third year, this company was ready to effect a regime change.

    On Feb. 3, 2014, Anna Nolan, the senior strategist at Purpose, posted a job listing. According to Nolan’s listing, her firm was seeking “two interns to join the team at Purpose to help launch a new movement for Syria.”

    At around the same time, another Purpose staffer named Ali Weiner posted a job listing seeking a paid intern for the PR firm’s new Syrian Voices project. “Together with Syrians in the diaspora and NGO partners,” Weiner wrote, “Purpose is building a movement that will amplify the voices of moderate, non-violent Syrians and mobilize people in the Middle East and around the world to call for specific changes in the political and humanitarian situation in the region.” She explained that the staffer would report “to a Strategist based primarily in London, but will work closely with the Purpose teams in both London and New York.”

    On June 16, 2014, Purpose founder Jeremy Heimans drafted articles of association for The Syria Campaign’s parent company. Called the Voices Project, Heimans registered the company at 3 Bull Lane, St. Ives Cambridgeshire, England. It was one of 91 private limited companies listed at the address. Sadri would not explain why The Syria Campaign had chosen this location or why it was registered as a private company.

    Along with Heimans, Purpose Europe director Tim Dixon was appointed to The Syria Campaign’s board of directors. So was John Jackson, a Purpose strategist who previously co-directed the Burma Campaign U.K. that lobbied the EU for sanctions against that country’s ruling regime. (Jackson claimed credit for The Syria Campaign’s successful push to remove Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad’s re-election campaign ads from Facebook.) Anna Nolan became The Syria Campaign’s project director, even as she remained listed as the strategy director at Purpose.

    From The Syria Campaign’s own website:

    The Syria Campaign is a non-profit organisation registered as a company in the United Kingdom as The Voices Project—company number 8825761. (You can’t be a registered charity in the UK if most of your work is campaigning.)

    We have a Governing Board who are legally responsible for the organisation and oversee strategy and finance for The Syria Campaign. The board members are Daniel Gorman, Ben Stewart, Sawsan Asfari, Tim Dixon and Lina de Sergie.

  • Jeremy Heimans co-founded “a campaign group in the U.S. presidential elections that used crowd-funding to help a group of women whose loved ones were in Iraq hire a private jet to follow Vice-President Dick Cheney on his campaign stops, in what became known as the “‘Chasing Cheney’ tour” among other leftist activism.
  • Daniel Gorman heads “the UK’s largest festival of contemporary Arab culture.”
  • Ben Stewart is a Greenpeace activist who has a grudge against Russia for detaining 30 of his fellow travelers.
  • Sawsan Asfari is “active in various charities that help Palestinians across the Arab world” and is the wife of Syrian-born British billionaire Ayman Asfari.
  • Lina de Sergie seems to more commonly go by Lina Sergie Attar. “She is a Syrian-American architect and writer from Aleppo. She co-developed Karam’s Innovative Education initiatives: the creative therapy and holistic wellness program for displaced Syrian children and the Karam Leadership Program, an entrepreneurship and technology program for displaced Syrian youth.” Yes, I’m sure “holistic wellness” is a big priority for Syrian refugees. Karam’s Mission Statement: “We develop Innovative Education programs for Syrian refugee youth, distribute Smart Aid to Syrian families, and fund Sustainable Development projects initiated by Syrians for Syrians.”
  • Tim Dixon has quite an extensive resume, being a former speechwriter to two Australian Labor Party Prime Ministers and involved in a large number of causes:

    – a large-scale initiative to help change hearts and minds on the global refugee crisis;
    – The Syria Campaign, to move the world to action on the humanitarian crisis in Syria;
    – Everytown, the movement to tackle gun violence in America

  • Etc.

    So, to summarize: It’s run by international left-wing activists in favor of Europe accepting more “Syrian” “refugees”, soft jihadis, and gun banners.

    These are not the sort of people I want driving American national security decisions.

    The situation in Syria is horrible, but outside territory held by the Islamic State, it’s the same type of horrible that has plagued the Middle East pretty much constantly absent control by a ruling power with sufficient force to keep the endemic ethnic strife under wraps. Wars there are fought under Hama rules, not those of the Geneva Convention.

    It is not in the best interests of the United States to intervene militarily in Syria. We have no compelling national security interest in Syria right now, there’s no faction worth backing, and trying to “create safe areas” or “establish no-fly zones” would be dangerous, cost-prohibitive and unlikely to succeed.

    Sometimes the best choice is doing nothing at all.