Global Terrorism Threat Analysis – February 2018

February 18

In Russia, a false claim from the Islamic State and video released by a group claiming to represent them, which is widely believed to be a hoax, have underscored the extent to which media relating to the group has become unreliable. This manifests in both the Islamic State claiming responsibility for attacks, in which they had no involvement, as well as groups with seemingly no connection to IS releasing media in an attempt to appropriate the group’s reputation for their own cause. In all, the events of the past months have shown that media appearing to be IS-linked in Russia is not necessarily reflective of the threats and situation on the ground.

In East Africa, the Jihadi group that started operating in Mozambique in October 2017, and often referred to as “al-Shabaab” or “al-Sunnah”, released its first video in late January. While the release is a notable development in itself, many features of the video indicate that the group is at least mostly local and has basic capabilities. Regarding Lake Chad, Boko Haram’s leader Abubakar Shekau released a video on February 6 refuting the Nigerian Army’s recently claimed successes against the militant group. While these claimed successes are likely overstated, Boko Haram’s level of activity in recent weeks has nonetheless decreased. Most notably in West Africa this month is Jamaat Nusra al-Islam waal Muslimeen (JNIM) increased focus on attempts to recruit from the Fulani community of the Mopti Region while capitalizing on local ethnic conflicts.

Jihadi activity in Asia continues to be most palpable in Pakistan and Afghanistan. A video and magazine released by the Taliban in Pakistan in early February highlighted its attempts to capitalize on anti-government sentiment in the restive Balochistan province, where the security situation has deteriorated considerably compared to the same period last year. However, in Afghanistan, the expansion of the US bombing campaign in northern regions has weakened the operational abilities of the Taliban and its allied militant factions. No country seems as potent a base of recruitment for Jihadists as the Maldives. This continued to be exemplified over the current period with the release of a video from by al-Qaeda-linked Bilad al-Sham media, which showed at least eight Maldivian foreign fighters and Quranic verses translated to Dhivehi.

In the Middle East and North Africa, the Islamic State’s (IS) release of images of child training camps (Cubs of the Caliphate) illustrates the group’s entrenchment in southern Damascus. In Israel, recent arrests of IS sympathizers highlight the continued threat of radicalization among Israel’s Muslim-Arab community. In Iran, the clashes between IS militants and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps near the border with Iraq underscore the prevailing activity by the jihadist organization throughout Iran’s western provinces. In North Africa, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) published a eulogy for its senior member Abu Rawaha al-Qusantini is likely an attempt by the group to rally its supporters and fighters around his “martyrdom”. Finally, in Egypt, the al-Qaeda-linked group Jamaat Jund al-Islam released a video slandering IS in North Sinai, likely in an effort to attract support at the latter’s expense.