The International Institute for Counter-Terrorism Monthly Summary of Events February 2017
During the month of February, there was an increase in the number of incidents in the area of the Gaza Strip. Several rockets were launched from the Strip into the territory of the State of Israel, the shooting resulted in large-scale air strikes against Hamas infrastructure in the Strip. Meanwhile, armored forces and air force planes attacked Hamas posts and targets in response to small arms fire directed at several IDF patrols along the border fence. In addition, the IAF shot down a drone that was launched by Hamas from the Gaza Strip to Israel’s coast. In addition, elections were held during the month for the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip, during which Yahya Sinwar was declared the leader of the organization in place of Ismail Haniyeh. According to some reports, Haniyeh will be appointed head of the political bureau in place of Khaled Mashaal.
During the month, six rockets were launched from the Sinai Peninsula into Israel’s territory. Four of the rockets, which were launched at Eilat, were shot down by the Iron Dome system, while two others were shot down over the Gaza border area. The Islamic State claimed responsibility for two of the incidents. Meanwhile, the organization published an announcement in which it claimed that Israel had killed five of its fighters using a remote manned aircraft in Egyptian Rafah in the Sinai Peninsula.
During the month, Syrian sources reported that the IAF had attacked several targets in the Qalamun Mountains area near the border with Lebanon. In addition, the IAF destroyed a Syrian army post in the area of the Golan Heights as a result of gunfire spilling over from the civil war in Syria into Israel. On the Israel-Lebanon border, several Lebanese citizens crossed the border into Israel in protest over the IDF’s frequent intrusions into the area.
During the month, the wave of terrorism continued against civilians and security services throughout the country. In Petach Tikva, six civilians were injured in a shooting attack carried out by a Palestinian resident of Nablus, and several stabbing attacks were carried out against residents and IDF soldiers in the Hebron area.
During the month of February, air coalition forces continued to strike global jihad organization targets, with emphasis on the areas of Raqqah, Idlib, Palmyra, Deir Ezzor, Abu Kamal, Al-Shaddadah and Al-Bab, and for the first time since the start of the civil war the Iraqi Air Force attacked IS targets in Abu Kamal and Huseiba in Syria. In one such attack, which was carried out by an American remotely manned aircraft in northern Syria, Al-Qaeda’s second-in-command was killed. In total, coalition planes carried out 547attacks throughout the country in February, 12 more strikes than during the previous month.
Meanwhile, the Russian and Syrian Air Forces continued to attack IS and Syrian rebel targets in Palmyra, Deir Ezzor, Homs and Al-Bab as part of the effort to liberate those areas from various organizations. In addition, Turkish army forces entered the city of Al-Bab itself and liberated it from the IS. Despite these achievements, at least 60 people were killed in a car bomb explosion in Susyan village north of the city of Al-Bab, an attack for which the organization claimed responsibility. In addition, four Russian soldiers were killed in a roadside explosion near the city of Homs. Also in Homs, over 30 people were killed in two attacks that included shooting and suicide bombings against two security offices, attacks for which Tahrir al-Sham claimed responsibility.
During the month, clashes broke out between Tahrir al-Sham, which is identified with Al-Qaeda, and Jund al-Aqsa in the area of Idlib, clashes that led to the deaths of over 70 militants from both camps.
During the month, Hezbollah reported that it was in a financial crisis impairing its ability to finance social institutions at the same time as it was dealing with the upcoming elections for the Lebanese Parliament. In addition, it was reported that several UNIFIL forces in southern Lebanon were attacked by local residents.
In the Ayn al-Hilweh refugee camp, clashes renewed between Fatah supporters and Islamist elements during which one person was killed and several others were injured. Meanwhile, it was reported that the Lebanese army reported that it was close to completing the construction of a wall around the refugee camp.
During the month of February, the Egyptian army continued to operate in northern and central Sinai Peninsula against IS targets. During the operations, dozens of IS fighters were killed and a large amount of weapons were plundered. In contrast, the organization continued to act against security forces and civilian elements. In addition to an attack on military blockades and the laying of roadside bombs, IS fighters bombed a school whose roof served as an observation point for the Egyptian army in Egyptian Rafah. In addition, many Coptic Christians abandoned the Sinai Peninsula as a result of the murder of several of members by the IS.
Additional security incidents that took place during the month in Egypt were the continuation of activities to thwart the smuggling tunnels connecting the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza Strip, despite the warming relations between the Egyptian government and the Hamas leadership. In addition, it was reported that an SA-7 anti-aircraft shoulder launcher was discovered in a trash can near the international airport.
In the political arena, Sudan expelled members of the Muslim Brotherhood in an effort to improve relations with Egypt. In addition, the Egyptian authorities prevented senior Palestinian representative, Jibril Rajoub, from entering the counter-terrorism conference that was held in Sharm el-Sheikh.
During the month of February, the Jordanian Air Force again attacked IS targets in southern Syria, seemingly with the help of manned aerial vehicles. Meanwhile, Jordanian security forces expressed concern over the Islamic State’s strengthening in a refugee camp located near the Jordan-Syria-Iraq border, on the Syrian side. In addition, Jordanian security forces reported the arrests of over 700 Islamists since the terrorist attack in Al-Karak in December 2016.
During the month, widespread demonstrations were held throughout the country against the government in protest over the cost of living.
During the month of February, the campaign led by the Iraqi army to liberate the city of Mosul from IS militants continued. The Iraqi army, aided by Shi’ite militia forces, captured Mosul’s airport from the IS and began to operate in the western neighborhoods of the city. Meanwhile, air strikes by the air coalition led by the US continued throughout the country against IS targets, with emphasis on Mosul, Sinjar, Rawa, al-Huwayjah, Kirkuk, Erbil, Haditha, Baiji, Taji, Kisik and Tal Afar. In total, coalition aircraft carried out 272 strikes throughout the country, an increase compared to the 234 strikes that were carried out during the previous month.
During the month, security forces also operated against IS militants in Saladdin and Al-Anbar Provinces, and even thwarted several attacks in these areas. In contrast, the organization continued to operate in various parts of the country, especially in the capital of Baghdad in the neighborhoods of Bayaa and Sader City, where over 70 people were killed in several terrorist attacks involving car bombs. In a combined car bomb and shooting attack in Taribil, which is located on the Iraq-Jordan border, over 15 Iraqi border guards were killed.
In the city of Basra, the Secretary-General of the “Hezbollah Brigades” Shi’ite militia was killed by anonymous assassin fire. Against the backdrop of this assassination, additional assassinations and the explosion of a roadside charge in the city, Shi’ite militias threatened to act in the city in order to restore a sense of security. Meanwhile, the Shi’ite preacher, Muqtada Al-Sadr, led widespread disturbances throughout the capital of Baghdad demanding reform of the local elections systems. During the demonstrations, several people were killed by rockets that were fired into the capital’s secure zone, known as the “green zone”.
During the month, the Turkish Air Force again attacked PKK targets in the north of the country.
During the month of February, a ceasefire was achieved between rival factions in the capital of Tripoli after several weeks of violent skirmishes and exchanges of fire between them. Meanwhile, Khalifa Haftar announced that the Libyan National Army (LNA) is in control of approximately 95% of Libyan territory and had attacked several Benghazi Defense Brigades targets from the air in central Al-Jufra District.
During the month, there was a failed assassination attempt on the Head of the Government of National Accord (GNA) when anonymous persons opened fire on a convoy of vehicles leading him and his entourage in the capital of Tripoli. In addition, several senior army commanders were killed in a car bombing near their convoy in Benghazi.
During the month of February, the US government announced the imposition of new sanctions on Iran in response to its ballistic missile fire test.
Five people were killed in an underground explosion near the port city of Bandar Abbas, seemingly as a result of a gas leak at an agricultural research institute.
During the month of February, Houthi rebels in Yemen continued to launch ground-to-ground missile fire at Saudi Arabia. One of the ballistic missiles was launched towards an army base near the capital of Riyadh, while another missile that was launched at the Khamis Mushait Air Force base in the south of the country was intercepted by anti-aircraft forces.
During the month, battles continued between Yemen army forces – aided by the Sunni coalition – and Houthi rebel forces throughout the country, including in Al-Jawf, Al-Bayda, Ma’rib, Sana’a, Najran and Taiz Provinces. Meanwhile, it was reported that the Yemen army had regained its hold on Hudaydah Province. As part of the battles, it was reported that Houthi rebels – with Iranian assistance – had scattered sea mines in the Mokha port area in an effort to prevent Sunni coalition marine forces from entering. In addition, the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Yemen army was killed by a ballistic missile that was launched by Houthi rebels next to the city of Al-Mokha.
During the month, three Houthi rebels were killed in Bayda Province in a car bomb explosion for which the IS claimed responsibility. In addition, eight Yemen army soldiers were killed in an attack by AQAP militants on their base near Zinjibar in Abyan Province.
During the month of February, Al-Shabab Al-Mujahideen continued to operate throughout the country, especially in the capital of Mogadishu. During the presidential elections in Somalia and in light of the growing threats, movement and entrance to vehicles to large areas of the capital were restricted. Despite the restrictions, several mortar bombs were fired in the direction of the city’s airport. In addition, following the end of elections and during the change of government ceremony, several mortar shells were fired towards the presidential palace in the capital. In a car bomb explosion in a market in the city, over 30 people were killed, while several officers were injured in another car bomb explosion near a blockade at the entrance to the city.
During the month, intense battles took place between African Union forces and Al-Shabab fighters in the area of Shebelle in southern Somalia.
During the month of February, Boko Haram continued to attack military and civilian targets throughout northeast Nigeria despite reports of the organization’s defeat as well as reports that the organization is on the verge of bankruptcy. Near the Nigeria-Cameroon border, five UN contractor employees and others were injured in a Boko Haram attack near the town of Adamawa. In addition, Boko Haram fighters attacked a village in the area of Chibok and several soldiers were killed in an ambush set by militants in northeast Borno State. In the city of Mogadishu, over ten people were killed, most of them militants, in a suicide bombing.
During the month of February, the Taliban continued to act throughout the country. In the capital of Kabul, dozens were killed and dozens more were injured in a suicide blast outside of the Supreme Court. Close to ten others were killed in a suicide blast in Helmand Province, and several officers and soldiers were killed in a car bombing and a shooting attack. In Paktika Province, several civilians were killed in a booby-trapped motorcycle blast and at least 12 others were killed in a roadside explosion. In addition, 52 farmers were kidnapped, most of whom were of the Uabek minority, from several villages in Jowzjan Province in northern Afghanistan. In contrast, at least 60 Taliban fighters were killed in air strikes in southern Helmand Province.
During the month, six Afghan Red Cross workers were killed in a shooting attack by IS fighters against a supplies caravan in Jowzjan Province. As a result, the Red Cross stopped its activities in the country. In addition, at least 17 soldiers were killed in an IS attack against an army post in Nangargar Province. In contrast, 12 IS fighters were killed in a strike by an American remotely manned aircraft in the province, and over 30 others were killed during a military initiative by the Afghan army aided by the US Air Force.
During the month of February, there was an increase in the number of terrorist incidents in the country. The Islamic State in Khorasan Province carried out a suicide attack at a Sufi temple in Sehwan, Sindh Province, in which over 70 worshippers were killed and over 140 others were injured. In Bannu in northwest Pakistan, a car bombing planned by Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, an organization affiliated with the Pakistani Taliban, and directed at a local police station was foiled. At the entrance to a courthouse near the city of Peshawar, several civilians were killed and dozens more were injured in a combined shooting and suicide bomber attack by Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, which is affiliated with the Pakistani Taliban. Other significant attacks took place during an election rally in Lahore, in which over ten people were killed in a suicide blast, and in Erawan District in Balochistan Province.
In response to a wave of terrorist attacks, security forces acted throughout the country against terror centers. During these operations, tens of terror suspects were killed and tens more were arrested in addition to dozens of militants who were killed in a Pakistani Air Force strike in the tribal region near the border with Afghanistan. In the city of Karachi, two IS fighters were killed in a gun battle with police officers.
In addition, several mortar bombs were fired at Panjgur District in Balochistan Province by the Iranian Border Guard.
During the month of February, Turkish security forces carried out a widespread wave of arrests of suspected IS members. In the framework of the operation, over 750 suspects were arrested. Four of the suspects were arrested in the city of Gaziantep in possession of 24 explosive belts. Meanwhile, approximately 4,500 additional state workers were fired as part of the continued operation to purge government institutions of government opponents and supporters of the failed coup attempt.
In the city of Viran?ehir in southeast Turkey, one child was killed and 15 others were killed in a car bomb explosion, apparently carried out by one of the Kurdish resistance groups operating in the area.
The Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia
During the month of February, six people were killed and others were injured in an explosive blast assembled by a pressure cooker inside a car near an election rally in Bathinda, India. In addition, several people were killed in a shooting ambush by militants in Kashmir region.
In the Philippines, the Abu Sayyaf group, which is identified with the IS, beheaded a German captive.
In Indonesia, security forces killed a suspected IS members in the city of Bandung on Java Island after an explosive device was detonated nearby.
Europe and the United States
During the month of February, an Egyptian citizen who traveled from Dubai to Paris on a tourist visa was shot and killed by soldiers after he attacked one of them with a machete at the entrance to the Louvre Museum in the city in an effort to vandalize the museum in protest over the carnage in Syria. In addition, French security forces arrested several people suspected of planning terrorist attacks in the country.
During the month of February, security forces in Azerbaijan acted against terrorist elements in the country.
In addition, several people were killed in a stabbing attack in Xinjiang Province in China, the residence of the Uighur minority.