The International Institute for Counter-Terrorism Monthly Summary of Events November 2016
During the month of November, several terrorist attacks and attempted attacks took place against Israeli security forces. All of the attacks occurred in the West Bank, especially in the areas of Beit El, Ofra, Hebron and the Qalandia checkpoint. The attacks were characterized by stabbings, car rammings and even a shooting attack carried out by a member of the Palestinian security forces. In addition, it was ascertained that some of the fires that befell the State of Israel were caused by arson that was allegedly nationalistically motivated.
In the political-Palestinian arena, Fatah convened a meeting for the first time since 2009. During the session, which was held in the city of Ramallah, Mahmoud Abbas was re-elected President of the movement.
In an unusual incident in the southern Golan Heights, gunmen from the Shuhada al-Yarmouk organization, which has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State (IS), opened machine gun fire at IDF forces. The IDF, with assistance from the Israeli Air Force (IAF), responded with fire and killed the terrorists. In addition, the Air Force struck targets belonging to the organization in response to the incident. Meanwhile, foreign sources reported that the IAF attacked weapons depots belonging to Assad’s army near Damascus as well as a convoy containing advanced weaponry intended for Hezbollah.
During the month of November, Syrian army forces, with help from Syrian militia forces, continued to take action, especially in the province and city of Aleppo. While most of the air strikes were carried out by the Syrian Air Force against rebel targets in the city, the Russian Air Force also claimed responsibility for attacks. Syrian forces noted several achievements, expressed in the liberation of several neighborhoods in the eastern part of the city of Aleppo. During the month, several humanitarian ceasefires were also noted around the city – ceasefires that were violated countless times by both warring sides.
The Russian Air Force continued its offensive activities against rebel targets in other areas throughout Syria, with emphasis on Idlib, Homs and even areas near the Turkish border in northern Syria. During the attacks, a Russian attack helicopter was downed by IS fighters. In another air strike allegedly carried out by the Syrian Air Force in the north of the country, several Turkish soldiers were killed.
During the month, there was an increase in the number of air strikes that were carried out by coalition planes, led by the United States. Out of 351 attacks, most of them were carried out near the city of Raqqah and the eastern part of the country, with emphasis on IS traffic and supply routes between the cities of Mosul in Iraq and Raqqah in Syria. For the first time since US Special Forces began operating in northern Syria as advisors to rebel forces battling against the IS, it was reported that a US army soldier was killed in a roadside bomb explosion.
Turkish army forces continued to act in northern Syria during the month of November. The Turkish army reported that it had attacked over 70 IS targets. However, it was also reported that several Turkish soldiers were captive by the organization.
Despite the election of Michel Aoun as President of the country at the end of October and the appointment of Saad Hariri as the Prime Minister, the Lebanese political system has not yet managed to reach an agreement on the structure and identity of the new government.
During the month of November, the Lebanese army and Hezbollah acted separately, but likely with one another’s knowledge, against Sunni jihadist organization targets along the eastern and northeastern borders of the country. Most of the activity took place in the areas of Arsal and Tufail, and were directed against fighters from Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, Ahrar al-Sham and the Islamic State.
During the month, security forces began to build a wall around the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp in an effort to prevent terrorists from entering Lebanon. The construction, which was temporarily frozen, was accompanied by protests by the Palestinian leadership, including Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
During the month of November, the Egyptian army continued its operational activities against IS fighters in the Sinai Peninsula. Despite this, the organization managed to carry out several terrorist attacks against Egyptian forces, including a car bombing at a checkpoint near the city of Al-Arish and the assassination of an officer with the rank of Brigadier General outside his home in the northern Sinai Peninsula.
In the political arena, an Egyptian court denied the state’s appeal of a previous ruling preventing the transfer of Tiran and Sanafir Islands to Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, the Saudi government announced that it was stopping the sale and flow of oil to Egypt until further notice. In another court proceeding, the death sentence that was imposed on deposed President Morsi was converted to life imprisonment.
During the month of November, Iraqi army forces, Shi’ite militias and coalition air forces led by the US continued to take action to liberate the city of Mosul from the IS. Iraqi Special Forces began to carry out raids in the eastern suburbs of the city. At the same time, Shi’ite militias worked to complete their siege on the city with the help of coalition air force planes that attacked and destroyed the four main bridges leading to the city. In addition, coalition planes continued to attack IS targets but at a much lower number than in October. In total, approximately 280 targets were attacked.
The Iraqi army, with help from Shi’ite militias, noted several more achievements during the month against the IS. The historical city of Nimrud was liberated but only after suffering great destruction at the hands of the organization. In addition, Iraqi army forces continued to tighten their grip on the Tal Afar border crossing area on the Syrian border in an effort to cut off Islamic State’s supply routes. Since Shi’ite militias, including Iranian militias, are operating closely with Iraqi army forces in order to avoid international criticism over their involvement in the war, this gives them a legal standing by the Iraqi government.
Despite its retreat from the city of Mosul, the IS continued to operate throughout the country. The organization managed to carry out several terrorist attacks in which over 200 people were killed, the most prominent among them being the explosion of booby-trapped ambulances in the cities of Samara and Tikrit, a car bomb explosion at a wedding in the city of Fallujah, and a truck-bomb explosion among Shi’ite pilgrims in the city of Hillah. In addition, the organization continued to attack civilians fleeing from the battles in Mosul.
During this month, Turkish forces also continued to operate in the northern part of the country against PKK targets. At the same time, Iraq warned Turkey not to invade its territory or join the battle against the IS out of concern that the latter would try to tighten its grip on Iraqi territory.
During the month of November, Libyan National Army (LNA) forces, with aerial assistance from the US, continued to act against the last pockets of IS resistance in the coastal city of Sirte. On the other hand, IS forces used suicide bombers to attack Libyan ground forces.
At the same time as the operation in Sirte, several shooting incidents and terrorist attacks were noted in the city of Benghazi. Most of these incidents took place between the LNA and Islamic militants as part of their power struggle over the city. During the month, Islamic terrorist organization carried out at least two car bombings in two separate attacks against security forces in the city.
In an unusual air strike in terms of its location, at least seven suspected members of the IS were killed in an attack by the US Air Force in the city of Sabha in southwest Libya.
During the month, new reports surfaced about the killing of Mokhtar Belmokhtar, one of the leaders of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), in a French air strike. It should be noted that Belmokhtar had been reported killed in an air strike several times in the past.
During the month of November, no unusual or significant events were noted in Iran with the exception of a US Navy report that an Iranian warship had taken aim at a US helicopter flying over the Persian Gulf. Most of the attention in Iran was given to the US elections and their impact on the sanctions regime against the country.
During the month of November, Saudi Air Force planes continued to attack targets in Yemen. In the framework of the battle, several rockets were fired from different ranges at cities and military bases, the most significant incident being the interception of a ballistic missile fired from Yemeni territory towards the city of Mecca by Houthi rebels. The launch of the rocket at Mecca led to widespread condemnation from most Muslim countries around the world.
During the month of November, compromise and reconciliation efforts continued between representatives of the Yemeni government and representatives of the Houthi rebels. As a short-term ceasefire was declared, Houthi rebels rejected the compromise proposed by the UN representative to the peace talks. Despite the reconciliation efforts, Sunni coalition air forces led by Saudi Arabia continued to attack Houthi rebel targets throughout the country.
During the month, the US continued to act against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) using drones, with emphasis on Al-Bayda Province.
The Persian Gulf States
During the month of November, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) reported that a radioactive component of the nuclear reactor in Bushehr, Iran, had be stolen from the vehicle that was transporting it. GCC officials expressed concern that the component could cause pollution of the Persian Gulf waters and desalination facilities on the shore.
North Africa and West Africa
During the month of November, there were exchanges of fire between Tunisian security forces and suspected members of AQIM in the area of Al-Kasserine in Tunisia.
During the month of November, Al-Shabab Al-Mujahideen continued to carry out terrorist attacks in the capital of Mogadishu. Close to twenty soldiers and passerby were killed in two separate car bomb explosions. On the other hand, the various forces operating in Somalia continued to act against the organization. The Kenyan Air Force struck Al-Shabab targets in central Juba region in southern Somalia and the US air forces struck the organization’s training camp, also located in the center of the country. In addition, local security forces liberated a village from the hands of Al-Shabab fighters.
Nigerian security forces continued to act against Boko Haram during the month of November, especially in Borno State and the city of Maiduguri. Most of the operations involved air force strikes against the organization’s strongholds in Borno State, as well as ambushes.In one operation, security forces – including soldiers in the Cameroon Army – suffered heavy losses, including the fall of dozens of soldiers into captivity by Boko Haram. Despite proactive security measures, the organization continued to try, and even succeeded at carrying out several suicide attacks.
During the month of November, the Taliban continued to initiate bombings and shootings against security forces throughout the country. Suicide attacks and roadside charge explosions by the organization occurred mainly inprovince suburbsand near the capital of Kabul, including a US Air Force base in Bagram. During a battle that took place between Taliban fighters and American forces in Kunduz Province, two US Army soldiers and over 30 civilians were killed in an air strike as part of the aid provided to warring forces. In another notable terrorist attack that was carried out by the Taliban, seven people were killed and tens more were injured in a combined attack involving a car bomb and a firing squad against the German Consulate in the city of Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan.
The IS also carried out attacks in Kabul during the month when it sent a suicide bomber to blow himself up inside a Shi’ite mosque, an attack that killed at least 30 worshippers. In addition, several IS fighters were killed in a US drone strike against IS targets in Nangahar Province.
During the month of November, several incidents were noted throughout the country, the most significant of which took place in Balochistan Province. In one such attack, an explosive blast at a Sufi mosque killed over 50 worshippers, and the IS claimed responsibility for a shooting attack against security forces.
Despite the fact that several months passed since the failed coup attempt, the Turkish regime continued to carry out a wave of arrests and dismissals during the month of November, with emphasis on air force pilots, police commanders and academics. The Turkish army increased its forces along the border with Iraq despite the dismay of the latter and, according to reports, close to 600 tanks and armored vehicles were positioned in the area, a step interpreted as preparation for an invasion of northern Iraq.
The Turkish TAK continued to act against Turkish security forces and regime elements, including the detonation of an explosive device at the office of the Governor of Adana.
The Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia
Most of the incidents that took place during the month of November occurred in the region of Kashmir. During the month, exchanges of fire were renewed along the India-Pakistan border and the Pakistani government even reported that more than 10 civilians were killed by artillery fire directed at the border town. Nevertheless, towards the end of the month there was a respite in the gun battle along the border between the two countries. Meanwhile, terrorist organizations operating in Pakistan continued to try and carry out bombing attacks against Indian security forces in Indian-controlled territory. Several soldiers were killed in a hostage-taking attack in Nagrota, which is located in Kashmir.
Europe and the United States
In the beginning of November, the US presidential election came to an end with the election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States. In the week prior to the election, US intelligence authorities issued warnings that Al-Qaeda intended to carry out terrorist attacks at polling booths, especially in New York, Virginia and Texas. Towards the end of the month, a Somali migrant carried out a ramming and stabbing attack at Ohio State University in the United States. Similar to other “lone wolf” attacks that took place during the year in the US and Europe, the IS released a statement in which it claimed that the perpetrator was counted among the ranks of the organization.
During the month, French security forces arrested seven suspected members of the IS who were planning to carry out showcase attacks in the cities of Marseille and Strasbourg. Among the targets marked for the attacks were amusements parks and points of assembly for security forces.
During the month of November, Albanian security forces thwarted a terrorist attack targeting the Israeli soccer team playing the World Cup qualifier held in the country. In the end, the game was held under heavy security. Four of those arrested identified with the IS, which was apparently behind the planned attack.
In Russia, security forces arrested ten suspected members of the IS for allegedly planning terrorist attacks in Moscow and Saint Petersburg.