September 30, 2015, marked the beginning of a new phase in the foreign involvement in the civil war in Syria, when Russian planes began launching airstrikes in northern Syria. Now, in effect, two coalitions are involved in the fighting in Syria: one, led by the US, carries out airstrikes whose declared goal is to weaken and eventually eliminate ISIS; and the other, a rival coalition that includes Russia, Iran and Hezbollah, whose goal, first and foremost, is to ensure the survival of the Syrian regime and weaken the rebel organizations that threaten it.
So far, most of the Russian airstrikes, along with the launch of cruise missiles from Russian ships in the Caspian Sea, were directed against the coalition of rebel organizations led by the Al-Nusra Front (Jaysh al-Fatah) in northwestern Syria (the area of Homs, Idlib and Aleppo). On the other hand, only a small number of airstrikes were directed against ISIS targets in the area of Al-Raqqah. Russia emphasized the airstrikes against ISIS in order to enhance the legitimacy of Russia’s involvement in Syria. In the ITIC’s assessment, at this stage, the Russian airstrikes do not yet endanger ISIS and do not disrupt its conduct; however, they pose a significant challenge for the Al-Nusra Front and its allies in north western Syria.
According to media reports, the Syrian Army, aided by Iranian operatives and Hezbollah operatives, is preparing for a ground operation in northwestern Syria. According to a Reuters report, a ground offensive against the rebel organizations north of the city of Hama has already begun. At this stage, the goals of the ground operation are still unclear.
The international campaign against ISIS
US and coalition airstrikes
During the past two weeks, US and coalition airstrikes against ISIS targets continued. Many dozens of airstrikes were carried out in Syria and Iraq by means of fighter planes, attack aircraft and UAVs. The main airstrikes are as follows (US Department of State website):
Syria - the airstrikes were concentrated in the areas of Al-Hasakah, Palmyra, Deir al-Zor, Al-Raqqah and Marea. The airstrikes damaged ISIS tactical units, anti-aircraft weapons, a crude oil collection site, buildings and vehicles, among other things.
Iraq - the airstrikes were concentrated in the areas of Baiji, Fallujah, Kirkuk, Habbaniyah, Ramadi, Sinjar, Sultan Abdullah (southeast of Mosul), Tal Afar, Kisik (west of Mosul) and Baghdadi. The airstrikes damaged ISIS tactical units, weapons, battle positions, tactical vehicles, buildings and tunnels, among other things.
According to an update provided by coalition forces spokesman, the coalition forces have launched 7,184 airstrikes against ISIS targets to date (as at October 2, 2015). Of the 7,184 airstrikes, 4,604 were carried out in Iraq and 2,580 in Syria. According to the spokesman,there are 5,451 soldiers from the coalition forces in Iraq: 3,359 from the United States and 2,092 from other coalition countries. The spokesman elaborated that the fighting against ISIS was conducted concurrently on four levels: airstrikes, training and equipping local forces, advice and assistance in Iraq, training and equipping the so-called moderate organizations in Syria (US Department of State website, October 2, 2015).
The number of foreign fighters in Syria continues to rise in spite of the preventive measures
An estimated 30,000 foreign fighters from more than one hundred countries are now in Syria, many of them fighting in the ranks of ISIS.The number of foreign fighters has doubled in the past year. This proves that international efforts such as increased supervision at the borders, the transfer of information and strengthening of enforcement through anti-terror laws have not reduced the number of foreign fighters. According to intelligence and law enforcement experts, those attempting to fight in the ranks of ISIS in Iraq and Syria includearound 250 US citizens (The New York Times, September 26, 2015).
If the figures published by the New York Times are correct, then there has been a significant increase in the number of foreign fighters in Syria, most of whom are fighting in the ranks of ISIS.A year ago, in October 2014, the ITIC estimated that around 13,000 foreign fighters were fighting in the ranks ISIS, most of them from the Arab/Muslim world and around 3,000 from the West. At that time, according to media publications, the CIA estimated that more than 15,000 foreign fighters from 80 countries had gone to Syria. The foreign fighters from Western countries included over one hundred US citizens. The increase in the number of foreign fighters symbolizes the failure of counterterrorism measures in the international effort to prevent foreign fighters from traveling and indicates that ISIS and other jihad operatives have found ways and means to overcome them. The main route used by these operatives to reach Syria is still Turkey.
Deaths of jihadi operatives in Syria and Iraq
Pentagon Spokesman Peter Cook confirmed that David Drugeon, a French citizen who belonged to the Khorasan network, was killed on July 5, 2015, in an airstrike by coalition forces in Syria, near Aleppo. According to him, David Drugeon was an explosives expert. He trained operatives in Syria and planned attacks against Western targets. Another death reported was that of Abu Bakr al-Turkmani, a senior ISIS operative, in an airstrike on September 10, 2015, in Tal Afar, northern Iraq (Daily Star, September 22, 2015).
The Khorasan network was first mentioned by US President Barack Obama in September 2014. It is a terrorist network comprising former Al-Qaeda operatives who fought in Afghanistan and Pakistan, who have been joined by a number of foreign fighters from Europe and the United States. The network operatives are based in Syria and operate as a branch of Al-Qaeda under the sponsorship of the Al-Nusra Front. According to the US, the network operative planned to carry out attacks against the US and other Western countries.
According to US officials, the US-led coalition countries have begun preparations to expand the coalition’s operations in Syria and to open a new front in northwestern Syria with the aim of putting pressure on the area of Al-Raqqah, ISIS’s “capital city” in Syria. To this end, President Obama reportedly ordered the Pentagon to provide ammunition, and possibly also weapons, directly to the Syrian opposition forces. He also raised the possibility of increasing the airstrikes from airbases in Turkey. These steps are intended to strengthen the force of about 3,000-5,000 Syrian fighters from the moderate opposition organizations, who will join around 20,000 Kurdish fighters for integrated attack on the city of Al-Raqqah. The officials stressed that the plan had not been coordinated with the Russians, although they were operating in the area (The New York Times, October 4, 2015).
At this stage, there is no effective force of “moderate Syrian rebels” that will be deployed by the US. Moreover, the Kurdish forces’ willingness to take part in such an operation is questionable, in the ITIC’s assessment.
Russian involvement in the civil war in Syria
A week ago, the beginning of a new phase in the foreign involvement in the civil war in Syria began, when Russian planes began attacking targets in Syria on September 30, 2015. According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, more than fifty airplanes and helicopters are participating in the operation against ISIS in Syria (Al-Mayadeen, October 2, 2015). Most of the airstrikes to date were concentrated in northwestern Syria. So far the Russians have carried out more than one hundred airstrikes. According to the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the lower house of the Russian Parliament, the airstrikes in Syria will continue for around three or four months and will be concentrated on command centers, training camps, arms depots, communication centers and weapon manufacturing sites (for details on a few of the airstrikes, see below).
Most of the airstrikes carried out to date were in areas of Idlib-Homs and were directed primarily at targets of the rebel organizations led by the Al-Nusra Front (Jaysh al-Fatah). A small number of them targeted ISIS, in the area of Al-Raqqah, the “capital” of the Syrian region controlled by ISIS. However, in their public statements, Russian officials emphasized the airstrikes against ISIS; in the ITIC’s assessment, this was done in order to strengthen the legitimacy of Russia’s involvement in Syria.
In the ITIC’s assessment, the Russian involvement is designed, first and foremost, to support the Syrian regime and to remove the threat posed by the rebel organizations led by the Al-Nusra Front to the regime’s stronghold in northwestern Syria (Latakia, Homs, Idlib and Aleppo). At this stage, Russia’s involvement consists of airstrikes in preparation for a ground offensive by the Syrian Army with the assistance of its supporters (Russia, Iran and Hezbollah). Assuming this is the case, at this stage, the Russian airstrikes do not represent a significant challenge for ISIS.
According to Reuters (October 8, 2015), the Syrian Army and militias loyal to the Syrian regime have launched a ground offensive against the rebels north of the city of Hama. According to the Russian minister of defense, Russian ships in the Caspian Sea launched 26 cruise missiles at ISIS targets in an area of approximately 1,500 square kilometers. According to a report based on Lebanese sources, hundreds of Iranian fighters came to Syria to take part in ground operations in northern Syria with the support of Hezbollah.On the other hand, an Iranian diplomat strongly denied the report, calling it “an outright lie” (IRNA, October 2, 2015).
Main developments in Syria
The rebel organizations are putting pressure on the Syrian Air Force bases
In recent weeks, operatives from ISIS and other rebel organizations have been putting pressure on the Syrian Air Force bases in northern and central Syria.They are doing so by attempting to take them over or at least disrupt their activity and prevent them from receiving supplies. In the ITIC’s assessment, this tactic is aimed at weakening the Syrian regime’s ability to carry out airstrikes, as the latter represent a significant advantage over the rebel organizations.
According to the information in our possession, the situation is as follows:
In the area of the Kuweyres military airbase, east of Aleppo, Syrian fighter planes attacked ISIS outposts and operatives (Dimashq al-Aan, October 4, 2015).
In the Damascus province, there were clashes between ISIS operatives and the Syrian security forces at the Dumayr airbase (ISIS-affiliated Twitter account, October 5, 2015).
In the Latakia province, the rebels fired rockets at the Hmeimim (orHamim)airbase, which is also used by the Russian aircraft (SNN, October 5, 2015).
In Deir al-Zor, clashes resumed between ISIS operatives and the Syrian security forces in the area of the military airbase (Khatwa News Agency, October 2, 2015). On October 3, 2015, the Syrian forces carried out three attacks in the area of the airbase (Al-Durar al-Shamiya, October 3, 2015).
On September 9, 2015, Al-Nusra Front operatives reportedly managed to take over the Abu al-Duhur military airbase, southeast of Idlib.
During the past week, there were local clashes in several locations in the Aleppo province. The clashes took place between ISIS and Al-Nusra Front operatives and the Syrian Army, possibly assisted by militias handled by Iran. The details are as follows:
On October 5, 2015, an Al-Nusra Front reporter posted photos showing Al-Nusra Front operatives firing at militias which are under the influence of Iran and the Syrian forces, on the route between the town of Khanaser and the town of Ithriya (southeast of Aleppo) (Twitter account affiliated with the Al-Nusra Front, October 5, 2015)
On October 4, 2015, a video was released by Aamaq, ISIS’s media arm. The video, which was filmed in the village of Al-Salehiya (about 25 km southeast of Aleppo), contains an interview with an ISIS operative who notes that the area is controlled by ISIS operatives.
On October 5, 2015, ISIS’s media arm released a video documenting the results of an airstrike allegedly carried out by a Russian Air Force fighter plane in the city of Al-Bab, about 38 km east of Aleppo (Isdarat.xyz, October 5, 2015).
As part of the acts of destruction carried out by ISIS operatives in the ancient city of Palmyra, Dr. Maamoun Abdulkarim, Director-General of the Directorate General of Antiquities & Museums in Syria, said that ISIS operatives had destroyed the Arc de Triomphe. This was a rare archaeological structure built by the Romans in the second century AD (Euronews channel on YouTube in Arabic, October 5, 2015; BBC in Arabic, October 5, 2015).
After around five weeks of fighting between ISIS and other rebel organizations south of Damascus, a ceasefire agreement has reportedly been signed. According to the reports, the agreement will also include a prisoner exchange and each side will return to its previous positions (Dimashq al-Aan, October 1, 2015). It was also reported that Jaysh al-Islam, one of the organizations that fought against ISIS, executed five ISIS operatives in the area south of Damascus, who confessed to having planned to eliminate ISIS commanders and operatives in the area (Aks al-Sir, October 4, 2015).
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), the ceasefire agreement, which involves Al-Zabadani and the Shiite villages of Fu’ah and Kafraya, northeast of Idlib, was set for a period of six months. The agreement includes the evacuation of 10,000 civilians from Fu’ah and Kafraya in cars belonging to the Red Cross in exchange for the departure of 500 militants of the rebel organizations from Al-Zabadani (LBC, September 25, 2015).
According to the estimates, after reaching a ceasefire agreement in the area of Al-Zabadani, the Al-Nusra Front and Jaysh al-Fatah, which it leads, plan to mount a campaign against Hezbollah in the ranges of Al-Qalamoun, Arsal and Ras Baalbek. In this context, the Al-Nusra Front and ISIS operatives are reportedly negotiating in order to combine their efforts through the establishment of a joint operations room (Ad-Diyar, October 4, 2015).
On October 3, 2015, an Al-Nusra Front reporter from Hama posted photos showing Russian fighter planes carrying out an airstrike in the rural areas of Hama and Idlib (Twitter account affiliated with the Al-Nusra Front, October 3, 2015).
In Homs province there were clashes between ISIS operatives and the Syrian Army. Russian fighter planes reportedly attacked ISIS targets in Palmyra and in the city of Qaryatayn (local coordinating committees, October 2, 2015). According to an official statement by the Al-Nusra Front’s media foundation, a joint operations room is being set up in the north of the Homs province for the Al-Nusra Front and other rebel organizations that cooperate with it.
On October 4, 2015, the Syrian Army reportedly attacked ISIS outposts in the north of the Homs province and in Hama (Al-Mayadeen, October 4, 2015). According to the reports, members of the security forces were killed and wounded in the Al-Zahra neighborhood of Homs when an ISIS suicide bomber blew himself up (ISIS-affiliated Twitter account, October 5, 2015). ISIS operatives also detonated a car bomb at a military post in the area of Al-Ghanthar in the southeast of the province. Eight soldiers were killed and several others injured (YouTube, October 5, 2015).
Deir al-Zor province
Clashes continued between ISIS operatives and the Syrian forces in Deir al-Zor. On October 2, 2015, a Twitter account reported that ISIS operatives had carried out three suicide bombings in the Al-Sina’ah and Al-Rasafah neighborhoods in the southeast of the city, on the road leading to the airport (ISIS-affiliated Twitter account, October 2, 2015).
According to a report by the SOHR fromSeptember 29, 2015, around thirty boys were killed at an ISIS training camp located on a farm south of Al-Mayadeen (a city located around 45 km southeast of Deir al-Zor). The boys were killed in an airstrike carried out by the French Air Force. The boys, aged 14-18, were members of the Lion Cubs of the Caliphate, ISIS’s youth organization. The incident enraged the families of the children, who claim to have been forced by ISIS to send their children to join its training camps (SOHR, September 29, 2015).
On October 3, 2015, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov reported that Russian fighter planes had destroyed an ISIS headquarters and bunkers near the city of Al-Raqqah (Aljazeera.net website, October 3, 2015). The SOHR reported that these airstrikes resulted in the deaths of at least thirty-nine civilians. Twelve ISIS operatives were also killed in the east of the city (Alarabiya.net, October 4, 2015).
Main developments in Iraq
The Iraqi Prime Minister’s comments on the Russian airstrikes
Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Abadi said that he would welcome Russian airstrikes against ISIS in his country despite the fact that, according to him, the matter had not yet been discussed. He added that Iraq was expecting the international coalition against ISIS to provide extensive air support to the Iraqi ground forces and that such support had so far been limited. In addition, the chairman of the Iraqi parliamentary committee also said that Iraq was interested in Russia playing a bigger role than that played by the United States in the fight against ISIS in Iraq (World Bulletin, October 7, 2015). Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov made it clear that his country had not yet been officially invited to operate in Iraq and therefore, at this stage, they were not planning airstrikes on Iraqi territory (October 1, 2015).
On October 6, 2015, Aamaq, ISIS’s media arm, published a statement in which ISIS claimed responsibility for two suicide bombing attacks carried out by means of car bombs driven by suicide bombers. Both cars exploded west of the city of Ramadi in two gathering points of the Shiite militias that assist the Iraqi Army (Aamaq, October 6, 2015). The day before, Aamaq published a statement in which ISIS claimed responsibility for activating roadside bombs against a tank and heavy machinery of the Iraqi Army west of Ramadi and killing the soldiers inside them (Aamaq, October 5, 2015).
On the other hand, the Iraqi police announced that it had killed 29 ISIS operatives in Ramadi, including two foreign senior ISIS officials and an expert in manufacturing IEDs (Al-Arabiya TV, October 2, 2015). According to the Iraqi Army, its elite units are located in central Ramadi (Twitter account of an elite Iraqi Army unit, Al-Firqa al-Dahabiya, October 6, 2015).
Salah al-Din province
According to a report by the Iraqi Army from October 6, 2015, its forces have killed dozens of ISIS operatives in the city of Baiji (Twitter account of an elite Iraqi Army unit, Al-Firqa al-Dahabiya, October 6, 2015). ISIS, on its part, announced that it had taken over five Iraqi outposts to the south and west of the city (Isdarat al-Dawla al-Islamiyya, October 7, 2015).
Pentagon sources said on September 23, 2015, that the US-led international coalition’s airstrikes against ISIS in the area of Tal Afar killed Abu Bakr al-Turkmani, a senior ISIS operative in Iraq, who had been in charge of administration and was responsible, inter alia, for the sale of the Yazidi captives from Jebel Sinjar (Washington Times, September 23, 2015).
Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula
ISIS’s Sinai province’s campaign against the Egyptian security forces
Egyptian security forces continued their increased activity against ISIS’s branch in the Sinai Peninsula.In this context, several terrorist operatives were killed by the Egyptian security forces. They also detained several dozen individuals on suspicion of terrorist activity and confiscated large quantities of weapons.
Concurrently with the Egyptian counter-terrorism and preventive activity, ISIS’s Sinai province operatives continued to carry out attacks, mainly against the security forces.Following are a number of incidents:
On October 7, 2015, two policemen were wounded when an IED blew up in Al-Arish near the armored vehicle that they were traveling in (Al-Masry al-Youm, October 7, 2015).
On October 6, 2015, an IED reportedly exploded near a military vehicle in eastern Al-Arish (ISIS-affiliated Twitter account, October 6, 2015).
On the evening of October 3, 2015, two separate attempts were made on the lives of two policemen in the city of Al-Arish (Al-Watan, October 3, 2015). ISIS’s Sinai province issued a statement claiming responsibility for the killing of two policemen, one of whom was an officer (Twitter page of ISIS’s Sinai province, October 4, 2015).
On October 2, 2015, three rockets were fired at the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) in Al-Jura. The rockets hit the base. There were no casualties and no damage was caused. ISIS’s Sinai province claimed responsibility for the rocket fire. According to the announcement, the rockets were fired because of the detention of Bedouin women by the Egyptian Army in Sinai (Twitter page of ISIS’s Sinai province, October 2, 2015).
On October 2, 2015, three Egyptian soldiers were wounded in an explosion of an IED planted in an armored vehicle that was carrying out patrols in the area of Sheikh Zuweid (Veto portal, October 2, 2015). The Sinai province claimed responsibility for the explosion (ISIS’s Twitter page, October 2, 2015).
Palestinians and Israeli Arabs
Israeli Arab detained while trying to leave for Syria to join ISIS
On August 28 2015, Israeli security forces at Ben Gurion Airport detained Iman Ahmed Mohamed Kanjou, a resident of the town of Shfaram in northern Israel, who tried to leave for Syria to join the ranks of ISIS. Under questioning, Iman Ahmed Mohamed Kanjou, a mother of five born in 1971, said that for several years she had aspired to live under a Moslem regime that strictly enforced Islamic law. As a result, she began to use social media to disseminate her views supporting the Islamic State and to post updates on what was happening there. As part of her online activity, she made contact with an ISIS operative who promised to help her enter Syria after she traveled to Turkey.
A few months ago, she decided to go to Syria to join ISIS and teach classes in religion to its operatives. She bought a plane ticket to Istanbul and from there she went to Adana, near the border with Syria. Upon arrival in Adana, she was picked up by a man sent by the ISIS operative she had been in contact with. The next day, along with a group of about thirty people from Australia, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and Chechnya, she left for the city of Kilis, near the Syrian border. In Kilis, they were detained by the Turkish police. Iman was deported to Israel and was detained upon her return (Israel Security Agency website, September 20, 2015).
Exposure of a Salafist-jihadi squad of Israeli Arabs intent on carrying out attacks in Israel
During August 2015, three young residents of Yafia (near Nazareth) affiliated with the Salafist-jihadi movement were detained. The three were involved in setting up an ISIS network in Israel, with the intention of carrying out terrorist attacks. Two residents of Nazareth were also detained. One of them had previously served time in prison for the murder of a taxi driver in 2009. During their interrogation, it became evident that two of the squad operatives had been in contact, via the Internet, with fellow operatives from Yafia, who had gone to Syria in November 2014 and are now fighting in the ranks of ISIS. Those operatives encouraged them to promote terrorist activities in Israeli territory.
In order to carry out attacks on behalf of ISIS, last year the squad members held trainings, obtained weapons and gathered intelligence about the police and IDF bases. They said that they had planned to carry out attacks at an IDF camp near Migdal Haemek. In order to carry out the attack, they made several visits to the area, inspected the security cameras and examined possible firing points. They also planned to throw Molotov cocktails at police cars and police stations in Migdal Haemek and Nazareth (Israel Security Agency website, October 1, 2015).
This is an unusual case where Israeli Arabs were recruited and handled for terrorist purposes by operatives in Syria. In this case, the handlers were operatives from the same village as the terrorist operatives, taking advantage of the fact that they were acquainted with one another. The Internet serves as an important tool for recruitment and handling. In addition, this modus operandi illustrates the terrorist risks inherent in Arab Israelis, and foreign fighters in general, joining the ranks of ISIS.
The global jihad in other countries
According to eyewitnesses in Sirte, ISIS’s center of control in Libya, the conditions prevailing in the city are particularly bad. This is due to the lack of fuel, increase in food prices, closure of stores and disconnection of the river water used for drinking and irrigation. In addition, the city suffers from a lack of Internet and telecommunications services because ISIS operatives have disconnected the fiber optic cables. ISIS operatives also impose fines on anyone who does not follow the instructions and laws published by ISIS (Akhbar Libya, September 22, 2015).
At the same time, ISIS operatives are working to expand their control in the area of Sirte and, in this context:
In the area of Abu Hadi (about 20 km south of Sirte), ISIS operatives captured soldiers belonging to the army of the Tripoli government. The soldiers were taken by force to ISIS’s headquarters in Sirte (Akhbar Libya, September 29, 2015).
ISIS operatives besieged and encircled the area of Abu Hadi. They then abducted a group of young members of the Qadhadhfa tribe (the tribe of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi) (Akhbar Libya, September 26, 2015).
On September 28, 2015, ISIS operatives raided the homes of residents in the village of Al-Gharbiyat, south of Sirte, and carried out extensive searches for weapons (Akhbar Libya, September 29, 2015).
The city of Ajdabiya
Efforts are reportedly being made to purge the city of Ajdabiya, south of Benghazi, from ISIS and Ansar al-Sharia operatives. According to reports from the area, at the moment, black ISIS flags can still be seen flying throughout Ajdabiya. The efforts encounter difficulties, mainly due to supply shortages, and because some of the city’s leaders and the tribespeople who live there are collaborating with the jihadi organizations. According to a security source in the city, some of the jihadists in Ajdabiya are foreign nationals, including operatives from Morocco, Chad, Tunisia and the Sinai Peninsula (Akhbar Libya, October 2, 2015).
In a statement posted on social networks, the Aden province of the Islamic State claimed responsibility for four suicide bombing attacks in Yemen on October 6, 2015. In the first attack, a car bomb exploded near Al-Qasr Hotel in Aden, at a time when the Prime Minister and other government officials were there. A second attack occurred shortly thereafter, by means of two suicide bombers in a car bomb targeting the compound where a headquarters belonging to Saudi Arabia and the UAE is located. They then launched several rockets at the compound. The Yemen officials reportedly survived the attack, but about 15 people, including a Saudi soldier and four UAE soldiers, were killed. These attacks were apparently carried out on the occasion of the establishment of the Islamic State’s Aden province (Al-Mayadeen; Al-Jazeera, October 6, 2015). Until now, ISIS’s activity in Yemen has been directed mainly against Shiite mosques.
On September 30, 2015, ISIS’s Aden province issued a video showing ISIS operatives fighting against the Houthi forces and taking over their positions in the city of Aden. Among other things, ISIS operatives bombed the National Security prison in Aden, near the sea. The video then shows ISIS operatives distributing leaflets to residents of Aden explaining the rules of conduct in the Islamic State (Isdarat.xyz, September 30, 2015).
The Crimean Peninsula
A group of operatives, most of them Russian-speaking Tatars from the Crimean Peninsula,pledged allegiance to the Al-Nusra Front. According to the statement, the group, called “the Crimean Jamaat” and headed by Amir Ramadan the Crimean, is now in the rural area of Hama at an Al-Nusra Front training camp (Al-Nusra Front’s Twitter page, October 2, 2015). The number of operatives in the group is not yet known, but it appears to be a small group of operatives (The Long War Journal, October 3, 2015).Afghanistan
ISIS’sKhorasan province carried out a series of attacks against Afghan Army camps in the eastern part of the country near the border with Pakistan. Following are details based on reports from the province:
On September 27, 2015, the province issued a statement claiming responsibility for occupying an army camp and killing 50 Afghan Army soldiers. Two Afghan Army soldiers were taken prisoner in the attack and a large quantity of military equipment was seized (Isdarat.xyz, September 27, 2015).
In another announcement, the Khorasan province claimed responsibility for an attack on two Afghan Army camps in the same area. In the attack, two camps were occupied, nine Afghan Army soldiers were killed and a large quantity of equipment was seized (Isdarat.xyz, September 27, 2015).
On September 29, 2015, it was announced that ISIS operatives had attacked another Afghan Army camp in the same area. In this attack, 20 Afghan Army soldiers were killed and a large quantity of weapons was seized (Isdarat.xyz website, September 29, 2015).
On October 1, 2015, ISIS’s Homs province issued a video showing three ISIS operatives calling on fighters in Somalia to pledge allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. One of the speakers in the video, who was presented as an ISIS operative codenamed Abu Osama al-Jazrawi, called for the establishment of an Islamic State in Somalia (Isdarat.xyz, October 1, 2015). Similar videos addressing Somali fighters were also distributed by ISIS’s Nineveh and Sinai provinces (Isdarat.xyz, October 1, 2015).
On September 28, 2015, unknown assailants assassinated an Italian aid worker, Cesare Tavella, 50, while he was jogging in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. According to police, three men dismounted from a motorcycle shot him at least three times and fled the scene. Tavella arrived in Bangladesh in May 2015, and worked in Dhaka as a project manager for the ICCO Cooperation, an NGO based in the Netherlands and dedicated to fighting poverty in South Asia (nytimes.com website, September 29, 2015).
On September 28, 2015, an ISIS-affiliated Twitter account posted an announcement from its operatives in Bangladesh, claiming responsibility for the murder of the Italian national. According to the announcement, after following the Italian in the streets of the capital, they shot him to death using guns with silencers. The announcement also includes a threat to “All the nationals of the Crusader coalition” (i.e., the citizens of the member countries in the international coalition against ISIS) that they will not live in safety in Muslim areas and that additional assassinations are expected (ISIS-affiliated Twitter account, September 28, 2015).
Counterterrorism and preventive activity
A 15-year-old schoolboy was sentenced to life imprisonment in Britain after being convicted of planning the beheading of policemen who were about to participate in a march in Australia when he was 14. The boy, whose name was not revealed for legal reasons, became radicalunder the influence of jihadi operatives whose messages he received via his cell phone.He also used his cell phone to contact ISIS operatives in Syria from his home in Britain. In this context, he also made contact with an ISIS recruiter in Australia codenamed Abu Khaled the Cambodian, who put him in touch with another boy. During the course of a few days, they exchanged thousands of encrypted messages in which the British boy proposed that the other boy carry out attacks (The Guardian, October 2, 2015).