Category Archives: Islamic State

Mali: Summary of Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM) 01 July 2017 Video

By Rida Lyammouri,

02 July 2017

Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM) released new video of six remaining hostages. Hostages detained include a French, Australian, South African, Colombian, Swiss, and Romanian. Video was released on 01 July 2017 through its media outlet az-Zallaqa but produced by al-Ezza production, first if I am not mistaken, and maybe JNIM’s new media outlet/platform! This came a day before French president, Emmanuel Macron, second visit to Mali within a month. Also, days before the release of Swedish hostage Johan Gustafsson who was kidnapped (with 5 others) by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) in November 25, 2011 at Hotel al-Afia in Timbuktu.

Six hostages appeared in the video. South African Stephen McGow showed first in the is the only hostage remaining from Timbuktu 2011 kidnapping. Second, Australian Eliot Kenneth, kidnapped in Burkina Faso January 2016. His wife was also taken but then released weeks later. Romanian Lulian Ghergut, taken also in Burkina Faso April 2015. Worth noting that Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahraoui, head of Islamic State branch in the Sahara claimed to have Lulian Ghergut when the group pledged allegiance to Islamic State, and split with al-Murabitun of Mokhtar Belmokhtar.

Before showing other hostages the video denounced Christian missionaries operating in Mali. This to justify the reasons of the kidnappings of three humanitarian workers. The first hostage accused of proselytization is the Swiss Béatrice Stockly, who was taken for the second time from Timbuktu in January 2016. Second hostage is the Colombian Gloria Cecilia Narvaez, also accused of proselytizing and described as “Franciscaine.” Sixth and last showed hostage is Sophie Pétronin, humanitarian and last to be taken, kidnapped in Gao December 2016. Sophie Pétronin was accused also of spreading western ideology while showing Emannuel Macron speech promising during the elections to protect the French people. Pétronin also appeared asking for French president’s help for her release, and her need for a surgery due to existing tumor in her left breast. This indicates that the video was made during the last two months, May and June 2017.

Representative of the jihadist group with face covered appeared and noted that serious negotiations has yet to take place. He also made reference to previous hostage releases and to say that this will depend on the political willingness of their respective governments.

Important to note JNIM’s video did not mention Jeff Woodke, an American who was abducted in Abalak, Niger in Oct 2016. An indication that he might be held by different group, and also tells us something about JNIM’s areas of operations.

Advertisements

Libya: Chronology of security incidents and violent clashes in Libya: 08 – 14 August period

By Rida Lyammouri

August 16th, 2016

There are two types of Islamist militant groups operating in Libya. Local groups: Benghazi Revolutionaries Shurah Council (BRSC), Darnah Revolutionaries Shurah Council (DRSC), Ajdabiya Revolutionaries Shurah Council (ARSC), Ansar al-Sharia Libya (AAS), Defense Brigade of Benghazi (DBB), Ajdabiya Operations Room (GATMJB). Regional groups: Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the Islamic State (IS).

Attacks and incidents listed below are not comprehensive and do not include all violence taking place in Libya. However these are incidents occurring in strategic areas where Libyan National Army (LNA) and its Western allies [with air support mainly] are carrying operations to chase Islamist militants out of their strongholds. Most of information is gathered through open source reporting and social media, and at times it’s difficult to confirm number of casualties and actors involved in an incident.

Key points and comments from MENASTREAM who has been following Libyan conflict very closely and recent evolvement of different groups in Libya:

  • Ajdabiya Revolutionaries Shura Council (ARSC) don’t longer exist and was dissolved several months ago resulting in the creation of ‘Operations Room for the Liberation of the City Ajdabiya and Support for Benghazi Rebels.’ GATMJB as abbreviation is now accepted according to same observer.
  • Ansar al-Sharia do exist but very much folded into BRSC along with Rafallah Sahati Brigade, February 17 Martyrs’ Brigade and few others that seems to have become totally folded into BRSC.
  • GATMJB and DBB work together but are work very closely together pretty much like one with the GATMJB leader al-Saadi al-Nawfali being a senior commander in DB as well along with Zied Bel’am commander of Katibat Omar al-Mukhtar, Mustapha Sharkassi former LAF spokesman i.e. former LNA (Haftar), Frag Shaku, the commander of February 17 Martyrs’ Brigade and also one of the main field commanders in BRSC prior the formation of DBB.
  • Increased use of suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (SVBIED) by BRSC could be explained by the fact they have been pushed back significantly and pretty much holed up in the corner of the ‘Western region’ Gawarsha, Ganfouda and Garyounis/south Benghazi. In this area there is an obvious possible coordination/cooperation with IS which influences this behavior. But also Ansar al-Sharia’s seemingly leading role and the strongly articulated popular support.

Note: This is a trial to see if there is need for weekly reporting about key security related events taking place in Libya. 

Chronology of violent incidents in Libya: 8 – 14 August 2016

Benghazi

09 August 2016: Counterterrorism office in Benghazi discovered and dismantled a sleeping cell of unknown “terrorist organization,” and arrested two suspects. Weapons, cash, and explosives also seized.

Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 3.48.48 PM.png

Bushra news agency infographic. Source: @MENASTREAM

11 August 2016: According to Bushra News Agency infographic (above), two airstrikes and four drones attacks were conducted in Benghazi. Reportedly 4 killed and 5 injured.

12 August 2016: According to Saraya media, a news outlet affiliated with Benghazi Shura Council, French drone strike targeted Ganfouda district in Benghazi.

13 August 2016: Two suspects arrested in Benghazi allegedly members of what referred to as terrorist organizations. The arrest took place east Benghazi at Boudzira area. Reportedly suspects are members of Dare’ Libya 1 and Rafallah al-Sahati.

13 August 2016: Islamic State targeted National Libyan Army (LNA) in Gawarsha area in Benghazi.

14 August 2016: A landmine explosion in Al-Gawarsha district killed 2 of Khalifa Haftar’s militiamen and injured 2. The IED targeted volunteering militiamen, who fight with Haftar’s forces, as they were advancing nearby Al-Gawarsha checkpoint.

Sirte

08 – 10 August 2016: After days of fighting, Bonyan Al-Marsous, Libyan militia backed by U.S airstrikes claimed capturing several strategic locations from IS in Libya. Captured locations included Ouagadougou conference center, and the university of Sirte, both have been considered symbolic to IS. Misrata hospital reported to have received 16 dead and 93 wounded soldiers from Bonyan Al-Marsous forces as a result of Sirte clashes.

09 August 2016: Bonyan Al-Marsous team struck an IED at Sirte where the Libyan militia have been clashing with IS.

10 August 2016: Libyan Dawn Air Force (LDAF) plane reported crashed at Sirte due to technical difficulties while IS media arm Amaq claimed its fighters downed the warplane. 2 pilots killed.

13 August 2016: An Islamic State SVBIED targeted Bonyan Al-Marsous gathering near captured Ouagadougou conference center. 7 fighters allegedly killed.

14 August 2016: Bonyan Al-Marsous reported ongoing clashes at both residential districts near the waterfront.

Jufra

09 August 2016: SDB and LNA reportedly clashed near the Naga oil field at Jufra. LNA sources also released photos of alleged IS fighters killed claiming to the group (IS) is supposedly behind the attack.

Darnah

10 August 2016: Libyan Air Force (LAF) reportedly conducted airstrikes on ammunition depot belonging to DMSC.

Battle of Niger: Summary and takeaways from Boko Haram/ISWAP video

By Rida Lyammouri

July 6th, 2016

Screen Shot 2016-07-05 at 11.27.40 PM.png

On July 5th, 2016, the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) or better known as Boko Haram, released a 14mn video titled: the Battle of Bosso. Exactly a month ago on June 3th ISWAP militants conducted one of the deadliest attacks on Nigerien forces military base of Bosso, Niger. Video mainly intends to reinforce ISWAP propaganda that regional forces are unable to stop the group from conducting attacks on hard targets and to demonstrate capability of defeating them. Important to note that an initial short video was released June 7th, three days after Bosso attack. However, July 5th video is 12 times longer, has more contents, and much better quality. The video included passages of speeches from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) from 2004 to 2006, was killed in June 2006. Continue reading

Moroccan Authorities Should be Praised and Not Criticized!

By Rida Lyammouri

May 17th, 2016

13 years after Casablanca attacks, Moroccan authorities did a tremendous job keeping violence off the country and its people and visitors safe, so thank you!

On May 13, 2016 Moroccan authorities dismantled a jihadist cell in Tangier with ties to the so-called Islamic State. This would have been a routine and incident local and foreign observers became accustomed to. Cells with ties to Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are dismantled in Morocco every month. However the fact that the main suspect was of Chadian citizenship it brought the issue to a whole different level and got more attention. Interior Ministry of Morocco stated that the suspect arrived from Chad to Morocco May 4th, 2016 with plans to establish an Islamic State branch east of Morocco, and was assigned to recruit and train Moroccans and Algerians attracted to ISIS jihadist ideology.

Surely there are a lot of questions to be asked about this arrest and about the information provided by Moroccan authorities but clearly local forces are not taking any chances. Initial investigations and video revealed that the suspect was in possession of plastic bags, powder and liquids used to make explosives. Additional items recovered in his apartment included pressure cooker, batteries, electric cables, metal balls, and armored vests designed to carry explosives. Investigators also discovered printed documents on how to build explosives, and video recordings of potential targets in Tangier, Morocco. Targets included hotels, military installations, security forces, and western diplomatic missions present in the country. Statement also said the suspect was able to gather all the information and materials with assistance from other members of the cell while no information were revealed about other suspects. To encourage recruitment the cell was aiming at kidnapping and executing members of local forces, in addition to foreign nationals.

These are images of items found at the suspect’s apartment.

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 9.41.02 AM.png

Video of strategic locations in Tangier

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 9.30.44 AM.png

Items used to build explosives

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 9.40.25 AM.png

Armored vests

The suspect was flagged and put under surveillance since his arrival to Morocco May 4th, 2016 to Casablanca international airport Mohammed V. Maybe a stretch but this could indicate ISIS will attempt more to depend on foreign recruits or sympathizers, notably from Sahel countries, to carry attacks in Morocco. Most of homegrown ISIS supporters traveled to Iraq and Syria to join ISIS, while majority of remaining domestic cell been cracked down by local authorities. This incident came couple weeks after Islamic State branch in Grand Sahara based in northern Mali released first statement threatening to target Moroccan forces, foreign interests, and peacekeeping members operating in southern Morocco. This is not the first time Morocco claimed to dismantle cells with ties to Sahel jihadist groups. In November 2012 Moroccan Interior Ministry announced that it has dismantled a jihadi recruiting cell that sent fighters to fight in northern Mali. In December 2012 Morocco also claimed that at least 20 fighters traveled to Mali to join the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA).

Claims by local authorities in Morocco are difficult to confirm because of limited information shared with the public. Even Moroccans living in Morocco finding it hard to believe there is serious threat in the country. The availability of weapons and explosives is also something majority of Moroccan don’t take seriously. I used to have the same perception but that changed when gunfire exchange woke me up early in the morning December 2003 when a cell was dismantled by local security forces in my parents’ neighborhood. That was first time I ever-heard gunshots in my life and happened while visiting my parents at my hometown, Meknes. This incident was just six months after the Casablanca synchronized attacks of May 2003. The cell dismantled was planning attacks on local MacDonald and a Luxury hotel in the city. This incident and others were not widely reported as it is the case today with social media and international interest. That was also thirteen years ago when today’s jihadist groups in the region were non-existent. Today they are well connected, more organized, and more equipped than ever before.

Still fresh in everyone’s memory Morocco was already taking necessary steps to prevent other attacks similar to Casablanca, and threat was real. Morocco’s efforts were not limited to the use of force. During my next visit in 2005-06 I found out that some countering violent extremism (CVE) work was already in place to prevent radicalizing more youth. Next to my parents’ complex authorities [maybe with foreign partners] built a mosque, a youth community center, and soccer and a basketball court to occupy disadvantaged youth. During same visit I also found out, unfortunately, that someone I knew from same neighborhood traveled through European country to Iraq where he conducted a suicide attack with his wife, so there was a lot of work still to be done.

These examples from more than a decade ago demonstrate that threat in Morocco existed long before ISIS. Threat was there before international community and observers started paying attention in 2011-2012 when the country emerged as one of main exporters of fighters to jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq, and way before “foreign fighters” term became so sexy and money making. Until now Moroccan authorities succeeded at preventing violent attacks on the Moroccan soil. The approach is working and nations struggling are seeking their collaboration and assistance, especially European countries. ISIS and other extremist groups will continue to make efforts and exploit any opportunities to attack Morocco. However for now Moroccan authorities should be praised, and not criticized, for keeping violence out of the country.

Every summer before booking my trip to Morocco my wife asks me if it’s safe. My response of course is yes, it’s safe. Things could happen anywhere of course as we witnessed in more developed countries with more sophisticated security forces. But for now I am able to go every summer to enjoy my vacation and to visit my family. And this is true also for thousands of tourists, including those questioning claims and efforts made by Moroccan forces.

SubstandardFullSizeRender.jpg

My Daughter enjoying peaceful view over the Mediterranean