Al-Qaeda/Russia – Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri called on supporters to band together to confront the threat from the West and Russia in Syria and Iraq, the latest recording suggesting greater unity between al-Qaeda and ISIS it was reported on the 2 Nov 15. "The Americans, Russians, Iranians, Alawites, and Hezbollah are coordinating their war against us -- are we not capable of stopping the fighting among ourselves so we can direct all our efforts against them?" Zawahiri said in an audio recording released on the Internet on the 1 Nov 15. It was not clear when the recording was made but references to Russian aggression suggest it was made after Russia, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, launched air raids against opposition groups and ISIS in Syria on the 30 Sep 15. In a recording released in September, Zawahiri dismissed ISIS and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as illegitimate but said his followers would join them in fighting the Western-led coalition in Iraq and Syria if possible. "My mujahideen brothers in all places and of all groups ... we face aggression from America, Europe, and Russia ... so it's up to us to stand together as one from East Turkestan to Morocco," Zawahiri said. ISIS, the ultra-hardline group that controls large parts of Iraq and Syria, has called for a holy war against both Russia and the United States in response to air strikes on its fighters in Syria. Any cooperation between al-Qaeda and ISIS would further complicate efforts to stabilize the Middle East, where militant groups have gained influence and escalated attacks since the Arab uprisings of 2011 toppled autocrats who had contained them.
Islamic State/Syria – Chemical weapons experts have determined that Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) used mustard gas during fighting in Syria in Aug 15, according to a report by an international watchdog and seen by Reuters it was reported on the 5 Nov 15. The chemical - which causes severe delayed burns to the eyes, skin and lungs and is banned under international law - was used during a battle between ISIL fighters and another rebel group, diplomatic sources said. The confidential October 29 report by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), a summary of which was shown to Reuters, concluded "with the utmost confidence that at least two people were exposed to sulphur mustard" in the town of Marea, north of Aleppo, on August 21. "It is very likely that the effects of sulphur mustard resulted in the death of a baby," it said. The report provides the first official confirmation of use of sulphur mustard, commonly known as mustard gas, in Syria since the regime of Bashar al-Assad agreed to destroy its chemical weapons stockpile, which included sulphur mustard. Several Western governments have questioned whether the government declared its entire arsenal. One source said "it raises the major question of where the sulphur mustard came from." "Either they (IS) gained the ability to make it themselves, or it may have come from an undeclared stockpile overtaken by IS. Both are worrying options." The finding, which will be formally presented to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon later this month, adds to a growing body of evidence that ISIL has obtained, and is using, chemical weapons in both Iraq and Syria. Kurdish authorities have alleged the group fired mortar rounds containing mustard agent at Peshmerga fighters in northern Iraq during clashes in August, citing blood samples. A team of OPCW experts has been sent to Iraq to confirm the findings. A special session has been called by the OPCW's 41-member Executive Council to discuss the Syrian findings and it will be held in The Hague on the 23 Nov 15 sources at the OPCW told Reuters.
Sinai/Russian Flight KGL9268 – The Russian airline whose passenger plane crashed on the 31 Oct 15 in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula has insisted that a technical fault could not have caused the disaster. Alexander Smirnov, the deputy general director of Kogalymavia, which operates flights under the name Metrojet, said on the 2 Nov 15 that the disaster was most likely caused by an external "impact". "The only plausible reason can be a mechanical impact on the plane," Smirnov told a press conference. "There is no combination of system failures that could cause the plane to be destroyed in the air," he was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency. Investigators from several countries have joined an Egypt-led probe to determine what brought down Russian airline Kogalymavia's flight 9268 on Saturday, killing all 224 people on board, en route from Sharm el-Sheikh to Saint Petersburg. Russian officials said on Monday the plane broke apart in mid-flight, as international investigators began probing the reasons behind the crash. "It is too early to speak about the crash causes," said the Chief of Russia's Interstate Aviation Committee, Viktor Sorochenko, after examining the site of the wreckage, according to the TASS news agency. "The plane broke down in midair, and its fragments are scattered over a vast area of about 20 square kilometres," he said. Speaking to reporters, Metrojet's Smirnov said the pilots "totally" lost control of the plane and did not try to make any radio contact before it crashed. "The crew totally lost control and for that reason there was not one attempt to get in contact," said Smirnov, adding that the jet was in "excellent technical condition".
05:58 Egyptian time (03:58 GMT): Flight leaves Sharm el-Sheikh, a statement from the Egyptian cabinet says
06:14 Egyptian time (04:14 GMT): Plane fails to make scheduled contact with air traffic control based in Larnaca, Cyprus, according to Sergei Izdolsky, an official with Russia's air transport agency
06:17 Egyptian time, approx (04:17 GMT): Plane comes down over the Sinai peninsula, according to Airbus
11:12 Egyptian time (09:12 GMT): Flight had been due to land in St Petersburg's Pulkovo airport
03 Nov 15 – A US infrared satellite has reportedly detected a heat flash at the time a Russian passenger jet went down in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, a US official has said, as the investigation into the deadly plane crash continues. The official said on the 3 Nov 15 that the US intelligence community believes that it could have been some kind of explosion on the plane itself, either a fuel tank or a bomb. The same satellite imagery ruled out a surface-to-air missile attack. "The speculation that this plane was brought down by a missile is off the table," the official said. Investigators are examining all possible causes as part of an Egyptian-led probe into the disaster that also involves experts from Russia, Airbus, and Ireland, where the aircraft was registered. Analysts have dismissed claims that the jet was shot down by a group affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) if it was flying at a cruising height of 9,000 metres, but did not rule out that a bomb might have been planted on board. According to the official, "the plane disintegrated at a very high altitude", when, as the infrared satellite indicates, "there was an explosion of some kind". The reports come as Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi dismissed claims that a branch of ISIL downed Kogalymavia airline's Flight 9268. "When there is propaganda that it crashed because of ISIS, this is one way to damage the stability and security of Egypt and the image of Egypt," President Sisi said.
06 Nov 15 – UK investigators looking at what caused a Russian airliner to crash in Egypt believe a bomb was put in the hold prior to take-off. It had received intelligence based on intercepted communications between militants in the Sinai Peninsula. However, both Egypt and Russia have said it is too early to draw conclusions. As the investigation into the crashed airliner continues, BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner says that although British officials have not ruled out a technical fault, they think that is increasingly unlikely. New intelligence was received on Wednesday. The UK government's Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC) has spent the past few days assessing what brought the plane down. Security service investigators suspect someone with access to the aircraft's baggage compartment inserted an explosive device inside or on top of the luggage just before the plane took off.
08 Nov 15 – Investigators have said that they are 99.9 per cent sure the Russian plane that came down over Egypt crashed due to a bomb after confirmation noise heard on the black box recording was an explosion. Previously, Egyptian investigators had said they have yet to determine whether a noise picked up by the cockpit voice recorder in the final seconds of the Metrojet flight en route from Sharm el Sheikh to St Petersburg, Russia was the sound of a bomb. However, senior officials in the intelligence services in Britain and the U.S. have said they are reportedly 99.9 per cent sure the jet was brought down by a bomb. According to CNN, Intelligence Services have been analysing terrorist chatter to determine to what extent the operatives were talking about the type of bomb and the detonator used. One official said: 'It's 99.9 per cent certain. We believe it was likely brought down by a bomb.' Meanwhile Egyptian investigators say they too are '90 per cent' sure the noise heard in the final second of the cockpit recording was an explosion. A member of the investigation team revealed: 'The indications and analysis so far of the sound on the black box indicate it was a bomb. 'We are 90 per cent sure it was a bomb.' Asked to explain the missing 10 per cent he added: 'I can't discuss this now.' Russia have also sent the first of three teams of inspectors to Egypt to examine security conditions at airports there. Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich's announcement follows Russia's decision to suspend passenger flights to Egypt because of security concerns. However, Mr Dvorkovich did not give details of specific issues on which the inspectors might focus.
361 COMMENT: The slow release of information regarding this terrorist attack has been commendable. Normally when a terrorist incident of this magnitude occurs the press and media are falling over themselves to get the “exclusive”, but this has been very different. Although the Islamic State as twice stated that ‘it’ carried out the attack the press and the media have not given the terrorist group the publicity that normally goes with an attack of this sort. It is in the realms of a “spectacular” but thanks to responsible press and media coverage the group has not got the publicity that will have sought. Another point that must be considered now is the state of tourism and the financial consequences of two terrorist attacks in North Africa and in particular two Islamic countries where westerners are made very welcome. The knock on effect will not likely be felt until next year when people start to book their holidays. Countries along the North of Africa may feel that there will be a lack of tourists will have a huge impact on their economy. It will be in their interest to inspect and resolve all, not some, of their security issues or they may find that the lack of tourists will have a long term effect. That said the Islamic State will have seen the success that they have had on tourism and attempt to start more operations where western tourists take their holidays. It will be interesting to see what Russia now does in retaliation to the downing of one of its civilian passenger planes which had men, women and children on board. Clearly the terrorists do not care as to the sex and gender of who they target and attack. COMMENT ENDS
Groups that are possibly responsible: (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-34751349)
So-called Islamic State (IS) is most prominent in the region and is probably responsible for the terrorist attack on an innocent aircraft, but there are at least two other groups, with possible links to Islamic State's arch-rival, al-Qaeda, worth paying attention to.
This is the name of IS' Sinai affiliate. It has claimed responsibility for downing the Russian airliner. Formerly known as Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, the group first appeared in September 2011 and rebranded itself with an Islamic State pledge of allegiance in November 2014. It generally targets Egyptian military and security forces in northern Sinai, and has scaled up attacks since July when it claimed an attack on a naval vessel in the Red Sea.
A picture of the world in the background may indicate the groups ambitions and desires inspired by the Salafist ideology of a global jihad. The AK47 states that he group will use violent means to obtain that ideology. The book indicates the Holy Koran and the origin of the group and its ideology. The colour black signifies the battle flag of Prophet Mohammed.
Ansar Bait al-Maqdis ("Supporters of the Holy House"), or Ansar Jerusalem ("Supporters of Jerusalem") was the name of a jihadist group based in Egypt; many Sinai-based members swore allegiance to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and most of the group became a branch of ISIL, renaming itself ISIL-Sinai Province. Ansar Bait al-Maqdis emerged as an extremist militant group after the 2011 Egyptian revolution, with its operations increasing in the wake of the 2013 Egyptian coup d'état which deposed President Mohamed Morsi. The group declared the Egyptian army and police apostates that can be killed. The group was believed to have been the main group behind the militant activity in the Sinai. The group recruited Bedouins as well as other Egyptians and people of other nationalities. Ten leaders from the group were reported to have escaped from the Sinai to Gaza and Marsa Matrouh in late 2013. During 2014, the group sent emissaries to ISIL in Syria to seek financial support, weapons and tactical advice. On 10 November 2014, many members of the group took an oath of allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Following this pledge, ISIL supporters within the group formed an official branch of ISIL in the region.
Ideology - SalafistJihadism
The propaganda of this low-profile group suggests alignment with al-Qaeda. It posted a sophisticated video two days before the Sinai plane crash showcasing its strengths, but without any specific threats. Jund al-Islam emerged in Sep 13 with a claim of a double suicide attack on the Egyptian military intelligence HQ in the north Sinai town of Rafah, on the border with the Gaza Strip. It has stepped up its propaganda campaign this year, claiming rocket attacks on Israel, and its latest video hints at links with al-Qaeda in Yemen - which has a record of trying to down planes. Online jihadist media operatives have also suggested that al-Qaeda in Yemen has been given oversight of activities in Egypt, among other regional fronts.
Location: Sinai (http://timep.org/esw/profiles/terror-groups/jund-al-islam/)
Characteristics: According to reports from Police General Hani Zaher and terror expert Maher Ferghali, Jund al-Islam is in possession of advanced weaponry, including rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and anti-aircraft missiles. In their one known attack, the group employed RPGs and two vehicles loaded with explosives.
Background: Jund al-Islam was widely unknown before 2011, however both Zaher and Ferghali have indicated that Jund al-Islam conducted a military show on the day of Osama Bin Laden’s death in May of that year.
Four months later, on September 11, they claimed a large attack on a military intelligence building in Rafah.
Ideology: In a statement claiming responsibility for the September 11 attack, Jund al-Islam denounced the Egyptian military as traitors to Islam and held them responsible for crimes committed in the interest of “the Jews.”
Although this statement was the only official Jund al-Islam proclamation, the timing of the military show and the military intelligence attack suggests at least a loyalty to Al-Qaeda.
Notable Attacks: The September 11, 2013 attack on the Rafah intelligence building killed at least six people and injured 17 more, including 7 civilians.
Al-Murabitun (The Sentinels)
Not to be confused with established Saharan group Al-Mourabitoun, this Egyptian faction announced itself in Jul 15. Its propaganda suggests an al-Qaeda orientation, and veteran jihadist media operatives link it - along with Jund al-Islam - to an al-Qaeda attempt to check the rise of Islamic State in Egypt. Its leader, Abu-Umar al-Muhajir alias Hisham Ashmawi, is a former officer in the Egyptian army, and was a senior figure in Ansar Beit al-Maqdis before it pledged allegiance to Islamic State. In Oct 15, Ashmawi issued a call for the killing of Egyptian military officers, and for revenge for the deaths of Palestinians by Israel's security forces. 361 COMMENT: Although the group states it will unite all Muslim from the Nile to the East of North Africa including Southern Spain the group is too far away and there are no recordings of the group operating in Egypt/Sinai. It appears to concentrate in ridding the French from North Africa which appears in write ups regarding the group. COMMENT ENDS
Meaning "Soldiers of Egypt", this group appeared in January 2014, and carried out attacks in Cairo over the summer. It has possible al-Qaeda associations, in that the Yemeni and African branches of that network posted eulogies on the death of its leader in Apr 15. It also coordinated attacks with Ansar Beit al-Maqdis before the latter joined Islamic State. But Ajnad Misr has repeatedly said that it tries to avoid civilian casualties in its attacks.
Soldiers of Egypt (Ajnad Misr in Arabic) is an active Salafist Islamist militant group that has been operating near Cairo, Egypt. The groups were founded by Humam Muhammed in 2013, after he split away from the Ansar Bait al-Maqdis militant group. The group claims that its attacks are "retribution" for the August 2013 Rabaa Massacre; notably, the group targets only security forces. It has warned civilians of the presence of bombs that it has placed. The Cairo Court for Urgent Matters declared the group a terrorist group on 22 May 2014. The United States State Department designated it a terrorist organization on 18 December 2014.
Ideology – Salafist Jihadism
Area of Operations – Cairo, Egypt.
Further Information – (http://timep.org/esw/profiles/terror-groups/ajnad-misr/)
The Al-Furqan Brigade and the Salafist-jihadist Group in Sinai appear to be dormant, beyond issuing online threats against the Egyptian state.
The Al-Furqan Brigades
The Al Furqan Brigades are a militant group that has been active throughout Egypt. The brigades attacked a container ship that was passing through the Suez Canal in September 2013. The group attacked a communications center in Maadi with RPGs in October 2013.
The Salafist-jihadist Group in Sinai – No Further Details Known (NFDK)
Jordon – A Jordanian policeman has shot dead two American instructors and a South African at a police training centre outside Amman, officials said on the 9 Nov 15. Government spokesman Mohammad Momani said the assailant injured two other Americans and four Jordanians, before being killed by his fellow officers. Jordanian security sources earlier said that the gunman had killed himself. The US-funded Jordan International Police Training Centre (JIPTC) hosts mainly Palestinian and Iraqi officers. Civilian contractors from the US and elsewhere assist Jordanian police trainers at the facility in Muwaqqar, on the eastern outskirts of Amman. Mr Momani told the official Petra news agency that the shooting was a "crime" and said an investigation was launched. The attacker was a senior trainer with the rank of captain; a Jordanian security source was quoted. The kingdom of Jordan steers a strongly pro-Western course in the turbulent waters of the Middle East. It hosts joint military exercises with countries like the US and UK, and strongly supports the US-led coalition against Islamic State militants in Syria. In the absence of any other obvious motive for the shooting it will be assumed that the killings were intended as an act of solidarity with militant groups in the Middle East it was reported. The incident comes on the 10th anniversary of bombing attacks by al-Qaeda in Iraq on three hotels in Amman which killed more than 50 people.
Lebanon/Beirut – At least 37 people were killed and more than 181 wounded on the 12 Nov 15 in two suicide bomb blasts claimed by the Da’esh terror group in a crowded district in Beirut's southern suburbs, a stronghold of the Shiite group Hezbollah. The explosions were the first attacks in more than a year to target a Hezbollah stronghold inside Lebanon, and came at time when the group is stepping up its involvement in the Syrian civil war. Hezbollah has sent many hundreds of fighters to support Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces in the four-year-old conflict over the border. Government forces backed by Hezbollah and Iranian troops have intensified their fight against mostly Sunni insurgents including Da’esh since Russia launched an air campaign in support of Assad on the 30 Sep 15. The blasts occurred almost simultaneously late on the 12 Nov 15 and struck a Shiite community centre and a nearby bakery in the commercial and residential area of Borj Al Barajneh, security sources said. A closely guarded Hezbollah-run hospital is also nearby. Da’esh said in a statement posted online by its supporters that its members blew up a bike loaded with explosives in Borj Al Barajneh and that when onlookers gathered; a suicide bomber blew himself up among them. The group said the attacks killed 40 people. Hezbollah vowed to continue its fight against “terrorists”, warning of a “long war” against its enemies. It was a blow to Hezbollah’s tight security measures in the area, which were strengthened following bombings last year. The army had also set up checkpoints around the southern suburb entrances. A series of bomb blasts struck Lebanon in 2013 and 2014, including attacks on Hezbollah strongholds. Most of them were claimed by Sunni militants in response to Hezbollah sending fighters to Syria to fight in support of Assad.