The Islamic State (IS) released the 172nd edition of Al-Naba, its newsletter, on 7 March 2019.
The main story on the front page of Al-Naba 172 is the 6 March IS assault on the airport in Jalalabad, in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan. This story also dominates page four. IS claims to have killed and wounded 64 “apostates” and three “crusaders” in this attack. Those numbers appear, as might be expected, exaggerated.
The other main story on page one is the assassination of eleven PKK operatives and seven Arab tribal officials who were working with them to administer Raqqa under the Rojava system. This story continues on page six. Al-Naba says that even the administration in Raqqa sees the seriousness of the situation, “confirming in a letter addressed to the jiha al-ashayr (tribal dignitaries) and the apostate mukhateer [warning them] that the soldiers of the caliphate are lying in wait for every PKK apostate and those who support them”. The page-six article is accompanied by a sanguinary picture.
Page two is, as ever, the “harvest of arms” (hisad al-ajnad) section, infographics on IS’s military campaign, noting 156 casualties, killed and wounded, over the last week, plus 44 “operations”—fourteen each in Iraq and Syria, eleven in Afghanistan, two in Sinai, and one each in “Wilaya Gharb Afriqiya (West Africa Province), Somalia, and Tunisia.
The main page three essay in Al-Naba 172 is an attack on other Islamist groups—labelled the “new tawagheet” (al-tawaghit al-judud)—for not trying to implement the shari’a when they gain control of territory, and for abstaining from this duty for the worst reason: so as not to antagonise the West, often phrased as wanting to avoid provoking an attack that leads to destruction and displacement of people, as has happened to the cities IS once held. IS specifically attacks the “Muslim Brotherhood apostates”, presumably meaning in Egypt, and “their brethren who walked the same path”, Al-Qaeda, in Yemen, Syria, and Libya.
This refusal to rule by God’s law in the patches of land they captured was done quite openly, Al-Naba goes on, and has left Ikhwani and Al-Qaeda supporters confused. “How can the tawagheet of Al-Saud, for example, be kafira (unbelievers) and apostates for abstaining from some provisions of the religion, while instituting others”, asks Al-Naba rhetorically. “Is this not akin to the tawagheet of the Muslim Brotherhood and others who rule except by what God has revealed”.
After all, Al-Naba continues, the Saudi government claims to arbitrate by shari’a and to be a among the “people of monotheism” (ahl al-tawheed), but this is accepted by neither Al-Qaeda nor the Ikhwan. Even worse are those Islamists who offer support to governments like that in Turkey and to leaders like Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who have “professed their belief in the religion of secularism and democracy”.
The page-three essay concludes by reiterating that for true believers, it is their obligation in any area of tamkeen (empowerment) to implement Islamic law and cleanse the zone of shirk (idolatry, polytheism), or else they cannot claim to be within the fold of the religion.
There is, in addition on page three, an interesting claim of a landmine attack by IS operatives against the Tunisian army in the Jibal Orbata area on 1 March. Below that is a claim that, in Somalia, IS wounded three policemen in Beledweyne and killed an officer, Umar Abdi Mahd, who was training the Somali army in the Huludhag area of Baldwin on 4 March. Both Beledweyne and Baldwin are in the Hiran gobol.
As well as the Nangarhar assault, page four also features a small notice celebrating the attack in Nigeria on 2 March that killed eleven people, including aid workers.
Page five is split between attacks on the Badr Corps, Iran’s oldest Iraqi proxy militia that now dominates the “federal police” (al-shurta al-itihadiya), north of Baghdad; a roadside bombing in “Wilayat al-Dijla” (Tigris province) against Iraqi state forces; and a bombing against the “emergency police” (shurta al-tawari) in Diyala, as well as rocket attacks on Shi’is in Muqdadiya.
After Al-Naba has celebrated IS’s Raqqa assassinations campaign on most of page six, there is a note from Salahuddin province in Iraq documenting two separate roadside bombings east of Samarra, one against the federal police and another against “Iraqi intelligence” (istikhbarat al-Iraqiya).
The upper-half of page seven celebrates IS’s al-amaliyat al-amniya (security operations) against the SDF/PKK in eastern Syria, which included everything from liquidating a spy to targeted assassinations, attacks on checkpoints, and burning vehicles. In all, more than two-dozen PKK militiamen were killed over the past week in “Wilayat al-Khayr”, according to Al-Naba. The second-half of the page is given over to “miscellaneous news”: a bombing against the militiamen of al-Hashd al-Shabi near Falluja; the assassination of a PKK official in Shadadi using a silenced weapon; an attack on the Egyptian army in the Sinai; and the assassination of three security officials in Anbar province.
The article on page eight of Al-Naba 172 tells IS’s members and supporters they must appear resolute in front of the unbelievers:
Almighty God loves to anger the infidels with the appearance of the power of the Muslims …
The infidels and hypocrites everywhere are watching the clash (al-marka) between the slaves of God (abad Allah), the monotheist (muwahideen) soldiers of the Islamic State, and His enemies, the polytheists, crusaders, and the apostates (al-mushrikeen min salibeen wa murtadeen). …
[The infidels’] faces are displeased seeing [IS’] strength and steadfastness in their jihad, and their hearts are filled with anger at the news of ongoing attacks against the infidels from the east of the earth to the west.
The page eight essay says that everyone, “Muslim mujahid” and mujahida (female jihadist) alike, are expected to appear defiant before the disbelievers in order to “vex/enrage the infidels” (ighaza al-kufr), even if that involves trickery. After quoting several Hadith on past examples, Al-Naba says: “These and other stories show the legitimacy of pretending (al-tazahur) to strength in front of the enemy … even if it is contrary to the facts and Muslims are weak”. It is difficult not to read this as a directive to those pouring out of the remnants of the caliphate around Baghuz in eastern Syria at the present time.
An ideological essay on page nine urged IS’s followers to expand the realm ruled by religion and not to hesitate fighting and killing disbelievers. Al-Naba reminds readers that the past expansions of Islam were made possible because people “went out seeking one of two [outcomes:] victory or martyrdom”. Those tempted to leave jihad for democracy and jahiliyya (pre-Islamic ignorance, paganism) will be humiliated by God. Al-Tabari, Ibn al-Nahas, and Ibn Taymiyya are quoted at length on the need to uphold the correct doctrine, the need for steadfastness, and the joys of the next world over this. This essay, too, seems to be directed at Baghuz, where the state of IS’s command structure is unclear.
Al-Naba roundly condemns the Kharijites—to whom they are often compared—and other heretics and sinners in an ideological-historical essay on page ten. Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab is embraced and accusations of extremism are denied, while opponents are accused of not taking the faith seriously and allowing shirk.
On page eleven, there were four stories in the “Events of the Week” section:
- The arrest of three jihadists from the Caucasus in Khanty-Mansiysk, in western Siberia, Russia, as they were meeting in an apartment to plan attacks on government institutions and to assassinate security officials;
- The latest round of the crisis on the Subcontinent between India and Pakistan over Kashmir;
- The increasing activity of the “caliphate soldiers” in Burkina Faso, especially on the northern borders with Niger and Mali;
- The incident in France where jihadist prisoner Michaël Chiolo stabbed two guards, apparently in retaliation for the security forces killing Cherif Chekatt, the man who pledged allegiance to IS and murdered five people at the Strasbourg Christmas market in December.
There was also, unusually, a picture [below] on page eleven, captioned, “A Group of Mujahideen of the Greater Sahara (Al-Sahra al-Kubra) during their Declaration of Allegiance to the Commander of the Faithful, the Mujahid-Shaykh Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi”. In the picture is the Lehbib Yumani (Abu Walid al-Sahrawi), whose group, Al-Murabitun, joined IS in May 2015.