The “capital” of the Islamic State (IS) in Libya, Sirte, has fallen to pro-government militias. “Our forces have total control of Sirte,” claimed one spokesman on Monday. “Islamic State’s rule over Sirte is now over,” said another. That was slightly premature, though it does appear that the city fell entirely around mid-afternoon yesterday. Regardless, it is clear that IS’s hold on Sirte is soon to be at an end. Positive as this development is, it is what happens after IS’s grip on urban areas is broken that will determine the durability of this victory. IS will remain a disruptive force for some time no matter what happens next, and for that reason it is important to continue military operations in pursuit of IS in its rural sanctuaries. But IS is a symptom of Libya’s political problems, not their cause. Without a government that solves some of those original problems, and has the legitimacy and capacity to keep IS out, the group will rise again. Continue reading
Originally published at The Henry Jackson Society
The activist group, Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS), which works against the Islamic State (IS) in its Syrian capital, published a list on Thursday on Twitter of the eleven “most important” IS leaders who have been killed in Raqqa Province. Continue reading
Article published at NOW Lebanon
The long arm of the Islamic State (ISIS) has struck again. Tuesday morning, Zaventem airport in Brussels was hit by two suicide bombers and soon after a third man detonated at Maelbeek metro station, not far from the headquarters of the European Union. At least 31 people were slaughtered and around 270 were injured. Belgium has a long history as a hub of global jihadism and some of its citizens were key in forming ISIS’s statelet. In the wake of the attack, as Western governments look for ways to hasten the demise of ISIS, it will likely be said—again—that the quickest way to do that is by striking a devil’s bargain with the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria. From Assad’s role in helping ISIS lay its groundwork in Iraq even before the U.S. invasion to Assad’s help, by omission and commission, in nurturing ISIS in the years since the uprising against him began as a means of defeating the opposition to Assad’s deliberate incitement of a sectarian war, there is nothing that could be further from the truth. While Assad remains in power, ISIS will remain alive. Continue reading
Published at Middle East Eye.
Amr al-Absi, one of the most senior Islamic State (IS) leaders, was killed in an airstrike on 3 March, according to reports on social media and by the SITE Intelligence Group. Al-Absi—better known as Abu Atheer al-Absi or just Abu al-Atheer—exemplified several key dynamics at work in Syria.
Atheer was among the jihadi-Salafists released by the regime of Bashar al-Assad at the beginning of Syria’s uprising in an attempt to make self-fulfilling the regime’s claim that the opposition were terrorists, and was also a seminal figure in making Syria so dangerous for journalists that it allowed Assad and IS to shape the coverage as if Syria was a binary choice between them.
Atheer is among the longstanding ultra-extremists who shape and define IS spiritually, and he was crucial in more concrete terms in IS infiltrating and expanding in Syria, particularly by bringing in foreigners who are among the most ideologically driven category of IS members. Continue reading
It has already been established that the on-the-ground leader of the Islamic State’s atrocities on Paris on November 13, Abdelhamid Abaaoud (Abu Umar al-Baljiki), had already been promoted in IS’s media. Abaaoud appeared in the February 2015 edition of IS’s Dabiq magazine. It now seems likely that at least one more of the Paris attackers, Foued Mohamed Aggad (Abu Fu’ad al-Faransi), had appeared in IS media already—the November 2014 video that was the fifth (of seven) in the series fronted by Mohammed Emwazi (“Jihadi John”), IS’s British executioner. The November 2014 video showed the slaughter of around twenty men, supposedly soldiers and airmen of the Assad regime, in the village of Dabiq, and the beheading of American aid worker Abdul-Rahman (Peter) Kassig. It is also possible that two further Paris attackers, Bilal Hadfi (Abu Mujahid al-Faransi) and Brahim Abdeslam (Abul-Qa’qa al-Baljiki), appeared in the November 2014 video. Continue reading
Last night, Steve Warren, the American colonel who is the spokesman for the international campaign against the Islamic State (IS), the U.S.-led Operation INHERENT RESOLVE, announced that between December 7 and December 27, ten IS “leaders” had been killed. Col. Warren adumbrated the positions of the IS leaders, allowing the conclusion that five had been part of IS’s external operations wing, which conducts international terrorism, and five were part of IS’s internal operations, i.e. part of the military operations and security infrastructure that helps IS maintain and expand its statelet in Syria and Iraq. Col. Warren presented this as an important blow to IS that had assisted in inflicting the recent territorial losses on IS. There is reason for scepticism on these points. Continue reading