Global Terrorism Threat Analysis – December 2019

December 19

On a global level, Europol’s operation to remove thousands of Islamic State (IS)-linked accounts and bots from Telegram will lead to a change in the way that online communications work between IS-supporters. Militants and radical individuals are liable to look for other, less well-known platforms, while more organized groups may look to build their own.

In the Americas, two notable incidents occurred in the US. Anti-US sentiments and the influence of al-Qaeda are increasingly likely to have provided the motivation behind the shooting in Pensacola, FL by Saudi national on the Naval Air Station base. Additionally, two arrests in Chicago, IL and Miami/FL underscore the decentralized nature of pro-IS operations in the US, as well as the varying methods of support.

In Asia, the Hizbul Ahrar (HuA) claimed an attack in Lahore, which appears to be retaliation for the recent sentencing of its operative in a separate militancy case. The group’s entrenched national presence is illustrated by the cross-provincial networks it maintains, and this will prevent a complete neutralization of its operations in the immediate term. Meanwhile, in Bangladesh, an attack claimed by IS in Khulna is reflective of efforts by the group’s affiliates to retain a low-level presence amid continued operational constraints.

In Europe, Islamic State-linked media outlets claimed the attack on London Bridge in the UK, which was carried out by an individual who had previously been released early from prison due to militancy-related charges. In addition, this incident may indicate the beginning of the holiday season, which often sees increased jihadist attacks.

In the Middle East and North Africa, the Islamic State (IS)-affiliated Wilayat Libya released a video showcasing four of its most prominent attacks in Libya between April-May. The timing of this video, following the killing of several IS fighters in airstrikes in August-September, and the fact that IS has not claimed an attack in Libya since June indicates that this is a propaganda effort that is meant to compensate for IS’ recent loss of capabilities. In Algeria, IS claimed that two IS militants clashed with the People’s National Army (ANP) in Tamanrasset Province on November 18. This event was highly notable considering that IS has neither claimed an attack nor released any media for Algeria since August 2017.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, al-Shabaab claimed to capture territory in Somaliland for the first time, reflecting their interest in expanding their influence into the relatively stable region. In Nigeria, IS continues to routinely target security forces and grow its capabilities in the Lake Chad Basin. In West Africa, the al-Qaeda affiliated Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam waal Muslimeen (JNIM) notably criticized IS for claiming to take down two French helicopters in what France has categorically referred to as an accident rather than attack, with JNIM accusing IS of lying. This comes amid a marked increase in high-profile, large-scale IS attacks in the Sahel in recent months and suggests JNIM seeks to undermine them, though this newly growing rivalry is likely to remain rhetorical rather than involving direct clashes at this time.