Al-Qaeda/Israel/Palestine – Al Malahem Media, the official propaganda arm of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), has released a new English-language magazine titled, "Palestine, betrayal of the guilty conscience." The slickly-produced publication was released online on the 16 Aug 14 and, as a piece of propaganda, seeks to capitalize on anti-Israeli sentiment. The magazine is similar to AQAP's Inspire magazine, which has encouraged jihadist recruits to carry out individual acts of terrorism. The authors of the 24-page production portray their message as being part of the same "school" of thought that has led to a long line of terrorist attacks against American and Israeli interests, including those planned by al Qaeda's senior leadership. "The statements, views and strategies expressed herein are those in line with September 11, [the] Muhammad Merah Operation, the Brussels Museum Shooting and [the] Boston Bombings," the magazine reads. "This booklet is a collection of statements regarding this school plus a couple of ways to arm yourselves," it continues. "This work is prepared to help the reader find a way to support his Muslim brothers in Palestine and Gaza." As in past AQAP publications, aspiring jihadists are given do-it-yourself instructions on how to build bombs. A section by the "AQ Chef" adapted from the first issue of Inspire shows how to build pressure cooker bombs like those used in the 15 Apr 13 Boston bombings. A photo glorifying the Tsarnaev brothers, the perpetrators of the attack, is included. AQAP's newest online magazine features the writings of prominent al Qaeda leaders and operatives, both deceased and alive, including Osama bin Laden and Abu Yahya al Libi. A piece by Samir Khan, an American who helped produce Inspire magazine before he was killed in a US drone strike, is also included. One page includes quotes from Nasir al Wuhayshi, the head of AQAP and general manager of al Qaeda's operations. Wuhayshi's words are excerpted from the AQAP film, "Here We Start, And At Al-Aqsa We Will Meet." Wuhayshi says that demonstrations are not enough to counter the Zionist-Crusader alliance, a conspiratorial motif that is often included in al Qaeda's propaganda. "No, demonstrations must be followed by explosions, and civil disobedience by military rage, and we must cut aid to the Zio-Crusader and kill those of the Crusaders whom we find on our land, and destroy Western interests until Europe and America stop their support of the Jews and stop the killing there and order their agents, the treasonous rulers, to open the border-crossings to Gaza and Palestine," Wuhayshi says. Another AQAP leader, Harith bin Ghazi al Nadhari, also stresses the importance of confronting the imagined Zionist-Crusader conspiracy. Nadhari's statement first appeared in an audio message released earlier this year. The "cursed state of Jews is nothing without the American aid and support," Nadhari says. "The Jews and the Americans are sharing the same trench in fighting the Muslim ummah [community]. So it is incumbent upon all Muslims to fight this Zio-Crusader enemy who has allied against the Muslim ummah." "The same way Muslims are obliged to fight and repel the Zionist Jews, they are obliged to fight America and their allies, the allies of the Jews in the killing of Muslims," Nadhari argues. Nadhari is a prominent AQAP ideologue whose writings have also been featured in al Qaeda publications focusing on the jihad in Afghanistan and Pakistan. (LWJ 17 Aug 14)
Jordon – Police officials arrested seven members of the country’s hard-line Jihadi Salafist movement near the city of Zarqa late on the 21 Aug 14 over their alleged support for “terrorist groups”, Islamist sources said on the 23 Aug 14. The arrests came hours after the suspects reportedly took part in a rally to support the Islamic State (IS), which operates in Syria and Iraq, in the Zarqa suburb of Yajouz, some 22km east of Amman, calling on citizens to support the extremist militant group. During the rally, some two-dozen Salafists reportedly formed a motorcade and drove down a major highway linking the capital to Zarqa, honking their horns and carrying IS banners. Mohammad Shalabi, or Abu Sayyaf, who leads the Salafist movement in Jordan, claimed that the men, all Zarqa residents, merely “supported the Islamic State and its agenda” and had no connections to the hard-line group. The Public Security Department confirmed that police arrested seven citizens outside Zarqa due to “security concerns”, but refused to confirm or deny whether the arrests were linked with the rally held on the 21 Aug 14. The arrests raise to 21 the total number of hard-line Islamists apprehended over the past two weeks with alleged ties to IS. More than 1,600 Jordanians are allegedly fighting alongside IS in Iraq and Syria, according to the local Salafist movement. Despite the large number of Jordanians reportedly fighting alongside IS forces, the former Al Qaeda offshoot has no official presence in Jordan.
Iraq – Iraq stated on the 20 Aug 14 that it was troubled by reports that Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants were smuggling oil to export markets and warned the purchase of such supplies could help the group fund its operations. Iraq reiterated that only the Ministry of Oil was authorized to carry out sales - an apparent swipe at the Kurdish region - and buyers who dealt with other parties risked punishment such as sanctions. ISIS has seized five oil fields in the north since it arrived in Jun 14 from Syria, prompting Iraq’s U.S.-funded soldiers to flee.
President Barack Obama has announced that Iraqi forces, aided by on-going U.S airstrikes, have recaptured Mosul Dam from ISIL terrorists on the 18 Aug 14. U.S. military officials said American aircraft had conducted a total of 68 targeted airstrikes since the 8 Aug 14, the majority directed at setting the conditions for Iraqi security forces to retake the dam. "These strikes were conducted under authority to support Iraqi security forces and Kurdish defence forces as they work together to combat ISIL, as well as to protect critical infrastructure, U.S. personnel and facilities, and support humanitarian efforts," a release from U.S. Central Command said. The attacks are aimed at preventing ISIL forces from receiving reinforcements, Pentagon Spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said, as well as reducing their defences. This "will allow [Iraqi security forces] to conduct manoeuvres around the dam," he explained. The Mosul Dam captures the flow of the Tigris River, providing flood control, water and electricity to Mosul's 1.7 million residents. First opened in 1986, it is the fourth-largest in the Middle East. If the Mosul Dam were to fail that would lead to a humanitarian disaster it was reported. A letter sent by the president to Congress yesterday said the dam's failure would endanger the lives of large numbers of civilians, U.S. personnel and facilities, including the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, and prevent the Iraqi government from providing critical services to the Iraqi populace. 361 COMMENT: The success of the retaking of the dam was well executed which cannot be said of the Islamic State. Had they known that the dam would be retaken explosives would have been planted and exploded prior to the departure of the IS in an attempt to cause as much damage as possible. Although they were caught out on this occasion future important targets and those which may cause damage if destroyed will not be left to chance should the Iraqi forces draw near. COMMENT ENDS
Israel/West bank/Gaza – Shin Bet announced on the 18 Aug 14 that it has arrested 93 members of a Hamas coup-plotting cell in the West Bank. Shin Bet also captured dozens of weapons and ammunition the KGS Night-watch reported. The plot was conceived and organized from Hamas's overseas wing's headquarters in Turkey. It featured long term infiltration of Palestinian students and had support from cells in Jordan. Its goal was to overthrow the Palestinian Authority government in a violent coup after having destabilized the West Bank by means of mass murder terrorist attacks. Shin Bet said it caught the plot in its early stages, but some of the attacks were to have begun during Operation Protective Edge to open a second front in support the Hamas fighters in the Gaza Strip. Palestinian Authority President Abbas has ordered an investigation of Hamas in response to the Israeli revelations. Israeli press reported that the Shin Bet investigation began in May 14. The timing of the briefing to the press, thus, seems calculated to reinforce Prime Minister Netanyahu's strong-man image and to counter pressure from the Left for a more conciliatory approach to the Palestinians. Nevertheless, the images of captured weaponry indicate the plot was genuine and at least half complete, assuming they are not fabricated. What is worrisome is that Hamas has significant support in the West Bank. In a fair election, it probably would win control of the government there. Once a third intifada started, it almost certainly would receive significant support in the West Bank, where Palestinians already have staged violent protests of Israeli Operation Protective Edge. The Israeli governments are masters at shaping their public image, so it is difficult to judge the credibility of all the details and the gravity and imminence of the threat. Nevertheless, Hamas governments in the West Bank and in Gaza would compound Israel's security problems.
Gaza/West Bank/United States – The US government today added the Mujahidin Shura Council in the Environs of Jerusalem (MSC) to the foreign terrorist organization list and labelled the group a specially designated global terrorist entity it was reported on the 19 Aug 14. In its announcement, the State Department describes the MSC as "an umbrella group composed of several jihadist terrorist sub-groups based in Gaza" and notes that it "has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks on Israel since the group's founding in 2012." One of the group's first high-profile attacks came on 18 Jun 12, when MSC fighters launched a cross-border attack on an Israeli construction site. One civilian was killed in the raid. The group dedicated the attack as a "gift" to Ayman al Zawahiri and its "brothers" in al Qaeda, adding that it was "retaliation" for the killing of Osama bin Laden. Addressing "Sheikh Zawahiri," the group said it was "continuing with our pledge of allegiance on the path of jihad." In Feb 13, the MSC released a video portraying one of the jihadists killed in the Jun 12 attack as an al Qaeda "martyr." An online banner advertisement for the video included a picture of the MSC jihadist, as well as photos of lead 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta and Anwar al Awlaki, the AQAP ideologue who was killed in a US drone strike. On the 21 Mar 13, the MSC launched several rockets into Israel. The attacks coincided with a visit by President Barack Obama to the country. In advance of the president's trip, the MSC condemned the US and Israel on its social media pages, labelling Obama the new leader of the "Crusaders." During a joint press conference held with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas shortly after the MSC's rocket strikes, President Obama mentioned the attacks. "We saw the continuing threat from Gaza again overnight, with the rockets that targeted Sderot," Israel, Obama said. "We condemn this violation of the important cease-fire that protects both Israelis and Palestinians – a violation that Hamas has a responsibility to prevent." While Obama said that Hamas should prohibit such violence, he did not outright accuse the group of launching the rockets. And indeed the MSC claimed responsibility, calling the president a "Roman dog." The MSC also claimed rocket attacks against Israel in Apr and Aug 13. "In addition to these physical attacks," the State Department notes, "the MSC released a statement in Feb 14 declaring support for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)," or ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham). The MSC's statement of support for the ISIS was dated 2 Feb 14 the same day that al Qaeda's general command disowned the ISIS. In its statement, the MSC blamed the ISIS' rivals in Syria for the infighting between jihadists. In a string of tweets that were also written on the 2 Feb 14 the MSC defended the ISIS after the group rejected an initiative by Sheikh Abdallah Muhammad al Muhaysini, who had attempted to broker a peace deal between the ISIS and its jihadist foes. Although the MSC's statement of support for the ISIS shows that some of the group's members have been in the ISIS camp, the current status of the relationship between the two jihadist organizations is unclear. It does not appear that the MSC has sworn allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the emir of ISIS, which was rebranded as simply the Islamic State in late June. At the time, Baghdadi's supporters declared that he ruled as "Caliph Ibrahim" over a caliphate that stretches across much of Iraq and Syria. The Islamic State has demanded the allegiance of all other jihadist groups as part of its caliphate claim. Interestingly, the same month that the MSC expressed its support for Baghdadi's organization, the group also issued statements mourning the deaths of al Qaeda "martyrs." One of them was Abu Khalid al Suri, who served as Ayman al Zawahiri's chief representative in Syria before he was killed in late Feb 14. It is widely suspected that the ISIS was responsible for al Suri's death, as the al Qaeda veteran was a prominent critic of Baghdadi and his followers. (http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2014/08/us_government_adds_g.php?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+LongWarJournalSiteWide+%28The+Long+War+Journal+%28Site-Wide%29%29)
Saudi Arabia – The Saudi interior ministry said on the 26 Aug 14 that it had detained eight individuals for trying to recruit youth into “extremist groups abroad.” Al Arabiya News channel that the recruits were for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). “Security authorities conducted on the 25 Aug 14 an operation that led to the arrest of eight citizens who were involved in recruiting youth to join extremist groups abroad,” an interior ministry statement carried by the country’s Saudi Press Agency said. Saudi Arabia has taken a tough stance against militant groups in the kingdom and has made arrests of cells with links to extremist elements in different Arab countries. In May 14, the Interior Ministry said it had dismantled a major “terrorist organization” with links to extremist elements in Syria and Yemen that was plotting attacks against government facilities and foreign interests. Sixty-two suspected members of the group were arrested in the bust. In Mar 14, the Interior Ministry published a list of “terror” groups, including Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, al-Nusra Front, which is Al-Qaeda’s official Syrian affiliate, and ISIS, another militant group that has gained swathes of territory in both Iraq and Syria. It also includes the little-known Saudi Hezbollah Shiite militant group, as well as Shiite Houthi rebels fighting in neighbouring Yemen. The ministry has said it will prosecute anyone who backs such groups “financially or morally,” or who seeks to promote them in the media and on social networks.
Islamic State militants' successes likely to galvanise jihadist radicalisation inside Saudi Arabia, moderately raising attack risks. Key Points:
- Both Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the Islamic State have been attempting to mobilise supporters inside the Kingdom for attacks, but the Islamic State's capability for this is probably somewhat greater than AQAP's.
- Saudi Islamic State fighters returning to the region from Syria are most likely to go to Yemen, raising the likelihood of tactical co-operation with AQAP to launch attacks out of Yemen.
- The main risk inside Saudi Arabia is of shooting attacks on foreigners or security forces. Any large-scale explosive attacks would probably target security forces near the southern border, rather than energy sites or foreign diplomatic missions or military assistance presence deeper inside Saudi territory.
Syria – Armed groups in Syria have an estimated several hundred portable anti-aircraft missiles that could easily be diverted to extremists and used to destroy low-flying commercial planes, according to a new report by a respected international research group. It cites the risk that the missiles could be smuggled out of Syria by terrorists. The report was released just hours after the Federal Aviation Administration issued a notice on the 18 Aug 14 to US airlines banning all flights in Syrian airspace. The agency said armed extremists in Syria are “known to be equipped with a variety of anti-aircraft weapons which have the capability to threaten civilian aircraft.” The agency had previously warned against flights over Syria, but had not prohibited them. Small Arms Survey, a Switzerland-based research organisation that analyses the global flow of weapons, published its findings on the 19 Aug 14 following last month’s lethal missile attack on a passenger jet flying over Ukraine. The report focuses on launchers and missiles known as “man-portable air defence systems”, or MANPADS, which are dangerous to planes flying at lower altitudes or ones taking off or landing. The new report estimated that several hundred anti-aircraft missile systems are already in rebel arsenals. Mostly Russian and Chinese in origin, the weapons have been seized by Syrian opposition militias from government forces and smuggled in from nations sympathetic to the insurgents, the report said. The most immediate danger is that anti-aircraft weapons, especially newer and sophisticated models, could easily be diverted to extremist groups operating outside Syria, it said. Porous borders and the presence in Iraq and other neighbouring countries of groups affiliated with Al Qaeda and other extremists heighten the danger that anti-aircraft weapons could spread to other trouble spots. “In the hands of trained terrorists with global reach, even a few missiles pose a potentially catastrophic threat to commercial aviation,” wrote Matthew Schroeder, the report’s author. The analysis is based on government and media reports and video footage of anti-aircraft weapons posted online from inside Syria. The extremist Islamic State group that has overrun much of northern and western Iraq also operates inside Syria. The militants, who have drawn fire from US drones and fighter jets, recently posted an online propaganda video showing one fighter appearing to fire an older-model, Russian-made SA-7 missile system. Most American and other commercial airlines already have halted flights over and into Syria during the past three years of conflict between the Assad government and insurgents. Citing the threat of MANPADS strikes, the FAA warned American carriers in May 13 to avoid Syrian airspace, a move that was heightened on the 18 Aug 14 to a total ban. “Opposition groups have successfully shot down Syrian military aircraft using these anti-aircraft weapon systems during the course of the conflict,” the FAA said in its “notice to airmen”. The agency added that the presence of anti-aircraft weapons creates a “continuing significant potential threat to civil aviation operating in Syrian airspace”. Unlike larger vehicle-mounted systems, compact shoulder-fired missiles and tube launchers are difficult to track once outside of government control, and easy to dismantle and hide. Schroeder said eight different MANPADS models have turned up in Syria. At least two varieties, the Chinese-made FN-6 and the Russian SA-24 Grinch, are newer and more sophisticated models with longer ranges than older varieties — up to 20,000 feet altitude — and are harder to repel by aircraft electronic jamming systems. A third new model spotted inside Syria has yet to be identified, Schroeder said. “Once these weapons are out of government control, they could end up anywhere,” Schroeder said. The report names Sudan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia as likely sources for MANPADS systems smuggled to insurgents inside Syria but cautions there still is no certainty about their origins. Rebel groups have also boasted of seizing anti-aircraft launchers and missiles from Syrian forces. US officials have estimated the Syrian government had amassed as many as 20,000 MANPADS units before the civil war erupted in 2011. (http://jordantimes.com/new-report-warns-of-anti-aircraft-weapons-in-syria) 361 COMMENT: In the last 361 Terrorist and Security Report it was noted that if the IS had anti-aircraft weapons then US aircraft maybe able to be brought down. Whilst this was an assessment at the time this latest news from the Jordon Times confirms that such weapons are not only in the hands of the militants but they do have the capability of downing aircraft. COMMENT ENDS
Syria warned the Obama administration on the 25 Aug 14 not to extend its air war against the Islamic State into Syria, as the militants celebrated another key victory over government forces in the north of the country. The warning came a day after the group overran a major air base in north-central Syria, putting the Islamic State in full control of Raqqah province, where American photojournalist James Foley was held for much of his captivity and his recent death occured. The capture of Tabqa airfield on the 24 Aug 14 was the latest in a string of recent military successes for the extremist fighters, who have been consolidating their hold across northern Syria even as U.S. airstrikes launched earlier this month temper the group’s expansion in northern Iraq. U.S. officials have not ruled out pressing the airstrikes into Syria, telling reporters last week that the United States would not be restricted by “geographic boundaries” when confronting the militants.
Syria/Israel – Al-Qaeda’s Syria wing al-Nusra Front and other Islamist fighters have taken control of a border crossing on the line dividing Syria from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, a group monitoring the Syrian conflict said on the 27 Aug 14. The fighters, who have vowed to “liberate” the area, captured the Quneitra post on the Syrian side from forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad after fierce clashes, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The organization gathers information from all sides in the Syrian war. The crossing is monitored by the United Nations, which oversees traffic between the two enemy countries but the distance between the two warring adversaries' posts is some 200 meters (656 feet). During the fighting, two Israelis were wounded by stray bullets, a soldier and a civilian, both in the Golan Heights. Israel responded with artillery fire at two Syrian army positions, the Israeli military said. It was the latest spill over of violence from the three-year conflict. Israel captured the western part of the strategic plateau from Syria in a 1967 war and annexed it, a move that is not internationally recognized. While the Syrian army has a presence on the Golan, some areas are controlled by rebels fighting to topple Assad, including al-Qaeda-inspired militants hostile to the Jewish state. 361 COMMENT: See Syria/Golan Heights/Israel report. COMMENT ENDS
Syria – While U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon reiterated his condemnation of yet another crime by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria on the 29 Aug 14, the Washington Post reported that at least four Western hostages held by the militant group were water boarded. The hostages including murdered American journalist James Foley were water boarded in the early part of their captivity in Syria. Foley, whose recent execution at the hands of the extremists provoked revulsion, and the other kidnapped Westerners were water boarded “several times,” the newspaper said, citing people familiar with their treatment. Water boarding, which was used by the CIA during interrogations of suspected terrorists after the Sep. 11, 2001 attacks, is a widely condemned form of torture that simulates drowning.
Syria/United Kingdom – A British militant apparently fighting alongside extremists in Syria has claimed that he will return home if “your countries don't stop attacking us,” in a recent interview via video link with an American news outlet. CNN spoke to two masked men, Abu Anwar al-Brittani and Abu Bakar, who gave the interview from an unknown location this week (29 Aug 14). For his part, al-Brittani said he would be “honoured” to perform an execution similar to the murder of U.S. journalist James Foley. “I hope God gives me the chance to do such a thing as the brother did with James Foley. Whether it be someone like James Foley or a soldier of Bashar [al-Assad, the Syrian president] or a soldier of America. “My hands are ready to do this task.” Abu Bakr told CNN’s interviewer Atika Shubert that he would return back to Britain if “your countries don't stop attacking us. “I am ready to take that step to come back if your armies, your countries don't stop attacking us.” Muslims in the UK, including parents of those suspected to have joined extremist groups, said they would work with police and intelligence to help find these militants. Chief executive of Britain’s Ramadhan Foundation, Mohammed Shafiq, promised to help police and intelligence agencies find British-based extremists or those who return home from fighting for ISIS. “As Muslims, we reject terrorism and the evil ISIS, they do not act in our name and we abhor anyone who supports them,” he told a newspaper. “We stand ready to support the police and intelligence agencies in their work to defeat terrorism and protect our nation,” he said. Towards the end of the interview, al-Brittani comments on the Muslim Council of Britain's denouncement of ISIS. The body recently condemned ISIS’ “psychopathic violence, whether it is on minorities, on civilians, or on fellow Muslims” in a statement posted on their website. “ISIS does not speak for Islam, and has been repudiated by all Muslims,” the statement read. Al-Brittani retorted: “The Muslim council of Britain are apostates. They are not Muslims, they have always fought against Islam with the British government.” He ends by saying: “They have tried to stop young men going to Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and they work in these so-called ‘anti-extremist projects. They are not Muslims.”
Syria/Golan Heights/Israel – Heavy fighting between Syrian army forces and rebels erupted on the Golan Heights on the 1 Sep 14 but it was unclear if either of the two sides had gained an advantage to control a key frontier crossing. Rebels of al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front have been battling the Syrian army in the area and have wrested control of the crossing at Quneitra, which is operated by the United Nations. Persistent small arms fire and explosions from mortar shells and other munitions could be heard on the Israeli-controlled side of the frontier of the strategic plateau it was reported. At least one tank belonging to the Syrian army loyal to President Bashar al-Assad was also involved and rebels could be seen a few meters away from the frontier fence. On the 31 Aug 14 Israel’s military said it shot down a drone that flew from Syria into Israeli-controlled airspace over the Golan. It was not immediately clear who had dispatched the unmanned aircraft or the nature of its mission in an area where fighting from Syria’s civil war has occasionally spilled over into Israeli-held territory. In a statement, the military said the drone was downed by a Patriot missile near the Quneitra crossing between the Israeli-held Golan Heights and Syria. A contingent of 44 U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji was detained on the Syrian side of the Golan by Islamist militants on the 28 Aug 14, and the head of the Fijian army said on the 31 Aug 14 negotiations for their release were being pursued. More than 70 Philippine troops trapped by Islamists in a different area on the Syrian side of the frontier were extracted to safety recently. 361 COMMENT: Should the IS be pushed back into Syria then an option for the militant group could be to join forces with the Nusra Front and attack Israel. This would be an immense propaganda issue for the Islamic State and Nusra Front after the IS defeat in Iraq which surely must happen now that morale has increased with Iraqi forces after American assistance with airstrikes and the Peshmerga success in the northwest of Iraq. COMMENT ENDS