The International Institute for Counter-Terrorism Monthly Summary of Events August 2016
During the month of August, the Shin Bet arrested a terror cell that was working for Hezbollah in the West Bank. In addition, a Hamas member was arrested for using his job at a non-profit for international aid to transfer money for the organization. In the arena of terrorist attacks, a civilian and a soldier were injured in two separate stabbing attacks, the first in Jerusalem and the second in the West Bank.
During the month, the Air Force attacked a Syrian army post in response to high-trajectory fire into the Golan Heights. In addition, the Air Force attacked dozens of Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and global jihad targets throughout the Gaza Strip in response to high-trajectory fire into the city of Sderot. In the Gaza Strip, a Hamas operative was killed in the collapse of a terror tunnel in which he was working.
During the month of August, battles continued in the framework of the civil war in Syria, as did international intervention in the battle. The fighting was focused mainly in northern Syria, in Aleppo, Manbij and Idlib, but attacks were also reported in the area of Deir Ezzor. Syrian regime forces, with Russian assistance, continued to try and lay a siege around the city of Aleppo. During the battle on the border of Idlib and Aleppo Provinces, a Russian assault transport helicopter was shot down by rebel forces. In addition, it was reported that chlorine gas was used in the city of Saraqib in Idlib Province. During the month, the Russian Air Force attacked IS targets in Deir Ezzor using bomber jets that took off from Iranian territory. As a result of the attacks, the international community leveled harsh criticism at Russia and the Iranian Parliament criticized the Iranian Ministry of Defense.
Air coalition forces, led by the US, continued to attack Islamic State (IS) and Al-Nusra Front targets, especially in northern Syria and in the area of Raqqah. A total of 303 air strikes were carried out during the month, a decrease in the number of strikes compared to the month of July. In addition, there was a resurgence of involvement by army forces northeast of Raqqah, which led to friction with US forces operating in the area.
Alongside this activity, the Turkish army launched a military operation in Syria, in cooperation with the Free Syrian Army. Armored forces, accompanied by the Turkish Air Force and allied air forces, launched an operation in the Syrian town of Jarablus, which is located on the Syria-Turkey border. In addition, dozens of people were killed and injured in a suicide attack on a bus near the Atama border crossing between Syria and Turkey.
During the month, Al-Nusra Front announced its split from Al-Qaeda against the backdrop of the Syrian organization’s attempt to gain more legitimacy.
During the month of August, the political crisis in Lebanon continued and was primarily expressed in the failure to elect a president of the country. Against the backdrop of the crisis, representatives of the former Prime Minister, Saad al-Hariri, continued to have contact with Hezbollah representatives in an attempt to find a solution to the crisis. Meanwhile, several Cabinet members complained about the decision to extend the tenure of senior army officials without the appointment of the President, as required by law.
The Lebanese army continued to act against the presence of the IS and Al-Nusra Front on the Lebanon-Syria border, with emphasis on the areas of Ras Baalbek and Arsal. Against the backdrop of the continuing battle, another American arms delivery worth 50 million dollars arrived to the Lebanese army.
During the month, the Secretary General of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, attacked moderate Sunni countries against the backdrop of reports of warming relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel.
During the month of August, Egyptian routine security measures continued in Sinai in light of continued IS activity and presence in the northern Sinai Peninsula. As part of these activities, it was reported that the leader of the IS branch in Sinai, Abu Duaa al-Ansari, was killed along with several other senior officials.In addition, dozens of militants identified with the organization were killed in an Egyptian air strike against terrorism targets near Egyptian Rafah. Nevertheless, offensive operations continued against Egyptian security forces, including roadside bombs, shooting attacks and mortar bomb fire. Most of the attacks were concentrated to the areas of Al-Arish, Sheikh Zuweid and Rafah.
During the month of August, the Iraqi army, backed by coalition forces, Shi’ite militias and Iran, continued to prepare for the battle to liberate the city of Mosul from the IS. In addition, Kurdish forces captured new territories from the organization north of Mosul, and coalition air forces continued to attack targets in areas under the organization’s control, including Al-Anbar Province. A total of 259 coalition air strikes were carried out during the month of August, a decrease when compared to the previous month.
Despite military pressure, the IS continued to prevent civilians from fleeing the area and simultaneously started to attack infrastructure, including the explosion of an oil well in Kirkuk. In addition, terrorist attacks continued throughout the country, with emphasis on of Baghdad, Tikrit and Samarra, especially in the form of suicide terrorists and car bombs. In addition, IS fighters attacked near the Jordanian border for the second time in two months.
During the month, the Turkish Air Force continued to attack PKK targets in northern Iraq.
During the month, political sources reported that Iraqi security forces had thwarted an intended assassination of the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to Iraq by Shi’ite militias, led by Iran.
During the month of August, the military operation to liberate the city of Sirte from the IS continued. At the Libyan government’s request, US Air Force planes began to attack IS targets in the city. As part of the advancement of Libyan National Army (LNA) forces, the organization’s headquarters in Sirte was captured and, at the same time, forces acted to prevent the escape of IS fighters from the city in order to prevent them from establishing themselves in other cities. In contrast, the IS continued to act against the advancing forces, mainly using car bomb explosions.
During the month, the military continued to act against terrorist activity in the city of Benghazi. In addition to the advancement of Libyan forces, the capture of additional parts of the city and French drone attacks, the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries attacked security forces using car bombs.
Meanwhile, the Libyan Parliament voted against the unity government proposed by the UN.
During the month of August. The Russian Air Force started to bomb rebel targets in Syrian territory using bomber aircraft stationed at Hamadan Airbase in western Iran. The stationing of the bombers aroused internal criticism since the stationing of foreign forces is against Iranian law. In addition, senior Iranian officials expressed their dissatisfaction with the fact that Russia boasted about stationing its forces in contrast to the understanding reached between the countries. As a result, the Russian bombers left Iranian territory after only a few days.
During the month, the Iranian army – backed by the Revolutionary Guards – continued to shell Kurdish targets in the area of Sidakan, in Erbil Province, in Kurdistan. In addition, Iranian security forces thwarted the move of an IS terror cell into Iranian territory in the border area with Iraq.
An unusual incident took place during the month when four Iranian Navy speedboats carried out dummy attacks against two American battleships. US forces chose not to respond and carried out evasive maneuvers in order to avoid escalation.
During the month of August, Saudi air defense forces shot down several ballistic missiles that were launched at the south of the country from Yemen, and it was reported that some of the missiles struck targets on the ground.
During the month of August, the civil war in Yemen continued despite reconciliation attempts in Kuwait. Most of the battles were focused in Taiz, Jizan, Najran, Sa’dah and Sana’a. Following the establishment of a coalition between Houthi rebels and supporters of deposed President Saleh, and the agreement of the recognized government to the UN reconciliation draft, representatives of the latter left the talks until the Houthi representative accept the draft. Meanwhile, there was a marked increase in the number of air strikes carried out by Saudi Arabia throughout the country and, for the first time, the US army published the scope of its assistance to forces in the form of aerial refueling.
During the month, Yemeni army forces – backed by the Arab coalition – recaptured the towns of Zinjibar and Jaar from AQAP. In addition, several suspected AQAP members were killed in a US drone strike in Shabwah Province. Meanwhile, AQAP continued to carry out suicide attacks and car bombings against security forces in Marib, Abyan and Lahij Provinces.
During the month, Al-Shabab Al-Mujahideen continued to carry out terrorist attacks throughout the country. Most of the attacks took place in the capital of Mogadishu and the city of Galkayoin central Somalia, in the form of car bombings combined with firing squads. In addition, several civilians were killed and injured by mortar bomb fire against the town of Baidoain southwest Somalia.
In contrast, US Special Forces – in cooperation with their Somali counterparts – raided Al-Shabab strongholds in Sakow District, which is located in central Juba, in addition to a raid by the Special Forces of the Somali, IS and Kenyan armies on an Al-Shabab training camp near the port city of Kismayo. Several suspected Al-Shabab memberswere killed in Rwanda in a gun battle with the Rwandan police as they were involved in recruitment activities and religious radicalization.
During the month of August, Al-Shabab Al-Mujahideen attacked a military camp in Lamu Province.
During the month of August, the Nigerian army continued its efforts to eradicate the presence of Boko Haram in Borno State. In contrast, the organization continued to operate in the area, including in Cameroon, as it transferred its central base from the Sambisa Forest to the Bauchi Forest.
During the month, internal arguments arose regarding the identity of the leader of Boko Haram. The IS appointed a new leader of the organization in Nigeria while the original leader, Abu Bakr Shekau, continued to claim that he still holds the position.
During the month of August, the Afghan army – backed by NATO forces – continued to operate throughout the country, mainly against the Taliban but also against the IS, which is operating in the country. Despite the army’s successes, including the killing of over 100 militants, the Taliban noted several achievements, with emphasis on the capture of at least 75% of the territory in Helmand Province as well as territories in Baghlan, Kundiz and Takhar.
During the month, the Taliban continued to act against the foreign presence in the country. In addition to detonating roadside charges against NATO forces and local security forces, over ten people were killed in an attack carried out by the Taliban at an American university in the capital of Kabul, using a car bomb and small arms fire. The Taliban also carried out a shooting attack in an ambush against a bus of foreign tourists in Herat Province.
During the month of August, several terrorist attacks were carried out while others were thwarted throughout the country. In the worst attack to hit the country this month, over 60 people were killed in a suicide blast at a hospital emergency room in Quetta. Responsibility for the attack was claimed by a faction that split from the Taliban-Pakistan. Other attacks were foiled in Panjab Province and in the south of the country.
In contrast, The Pakistan army, with help from the Pakistan Air Force, struck terrorist targets in the tribal area of Kyber Province. Dozens of militants were killed in the attacks and many others were wounded.
During the month of August, the operation of purification and restoration of state institutions from the remnants of the coup that occurred in July continued. As part of the operation, thousands of army soldiers and officers were fired and over 100 media channels were closed. In addition, reforms were made to the intelligence services in the country.
Turkish security forces continued to act against the Kurdish PKK. In contrast, the organization carried out several terrorist attacks in Hakkâri Province in southeast Turkey, near Diyarbak?r in the south, in Hizan District in Bitlis Province, and in the city of Elazignear the border with Iran. Most of the attacks took the form of car bombings against Turkish security forces.
During the month, the IS carried out a suicide attack at a Kurdish wedding in the city of Gaziantep in southeast Turkey, claiming the lives of dozens of guests. As a result, the Turkish army launched an operation against the organization on the Syrian side of the shared border between the countries.
The Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia
During the month of August, Indonesian security forces thwarted a rocket attack on Singapore from Batam Island in Indonesia into Singapore’s Marina Bay, located approximately 32 kilometers away.
In India, more than ten people were killed in a shooting and grenade attack in a market in Kokrajhar, in northeast India.
In addition, several explosive devices were detonated at resorts throughout Thailand. More than five people were killed and dozens more injured in the attacks.
Europe and the United States
During the month of August, efforts continued throughout Europe to thwart terrorist attacks in light of the wave of terrorism that has befallen the continent in recent months. Nevertheless, several police officers were injured in a stabbing attack in Charleroi, Belgium.
In the US, the FBI arrested a transit police officer in the DC Police Department on suspicion of cooperating with the IS. In addition, there was suspicion of an IS-inspired attempted beheading in Virginia by a man who screamed out “Allah Akbar”. In Canada, a suspected member of the IS was killed during a gun battle with the Ontario Police after it was suspected that he intended to carry out a terrorist attack in the immediate future.
During the month of August, as part of police activity ahead of the Olympics in Brazil, the Sao Paulo Police arrested a Lebanese citizen, a member of Hezbollah, who was wanted by Interpol for drug trafficking.