In the 165th edition of Al-Naba, the weekly newsletter of the Islamic State (IS), was released on 17 January 2019. Al-Naba 165 contained a description of the suicide bombing at the Qasr al-Omara restaurant in Minbij, northern Syria, on 16 January, which killed four Americans: Army Chief Warrant Officer Jonathan Farmer; Navy Chief Petty Officer Shannon Kent; Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) civilian Scott Wirtz; and Pentagon contractor and linguist Ghadir Taher. At least ten other people were killed, eight civilians and two officials from the “Syrian Democratic Forces“ (SDF). The newsletter also contains an interview with an IS official operating in the Minbij area, who explains how the group’s sleeper cells and surveillance apparatus tracked U.S. movements and made prior attempts to attack the U.S. and its allies.
IS led with the Minbij attack on the front page of Al-Naba 165 and then expanded on page 4. IS had taught the American crusaders and their apostate allies a “harsh lesson” (dursa qaseeya), says Al-Naba. IS claims to have killed and wounded nine Americans and seven SDF/PKK operatives. IS names the suicide-killer as Abu Yasin al-Shami, by implication a Syrian national. According to IS, “helicopters instantly rushed to the scene to move the dead and wounded”.
On page 10, Al-Naba has an interview with a member of the “security detachments” (mafariz al-amn), in Minbij about the “reality of the situation in that area”. The attack gained global attention, as IS notes, for many reasons, including “the timing, location, purpose, and organisation implementing it”. The key context is President Trump’s declared intention to withdraw from Syria, IS continued, and after he has declared their organisation on the brink of defeat.
The security official (or amni) speaking to Al-Naba says the “Crusader forces in the area are deployed in small military bases on the perimeter of the city of Minbj, and there are three known bases”. The amni says these American positions are designed to keep the PKK separated from Syrian rebel forces, and also from Turkey and the pro-Asad coalition, both of which covet Minbij.
The Americans “are moving continuously” between the three bases around Minbij, according to the amni, in convoys of between ten and fifteen vehicles, protected by the PKK. Occasionally, the Americans enter the city—in Land Cruisers, apparently—but they are “accompanied by guardians from the apostates [i.e. PKK]” and rarely leave their armoured vehicles. The amni adds that the PKK in the city are hid behind layers of trenches, walls (well-guarded buildings), and surveillance.
IS has been trying to attack the U.S. for months in the Minbij countryside, the amni says, but for various reasons the efforts failed, but now—by God’s design, obviously—IS had been able to strike into the centre of the far more heavily fortified city.
The amni tells Al-Naba that on several recent occasions officers from the Asad tyranny’s military have entered Minbij to hold meetings with the PKK. The pro-Asad forces are based west of the city in Areema and Tayeeha, while the Turks and Syrian rebels are mobilising to the north around Al-Dadat, according to the IS official speaking to Al-Naba.
The amni concluded the interview with threats to the people in Minbij, many of whom he says have fallen into infidelity. The amni demands that the local councils be shunned since only shari’a is acceptable. Anyone participating in local elections, pro-PKK demonstrations, or “providing information about the mujahideen” will be considered to have become kufr (an unbeliever), and the penalty for apostasy is well-known.