Rocket being prepared for firing.
Main events of the past week
- Like every year, ISIS supporters have posted posters on social media threatening to carry out attacks against Christians around the world with the approach of Christmas. In practice, no such terrorist attacks have been carried out to date by ISIS operatives or their supporters. In Borno State, in northeastern Nigeria, ISIS claimed responsibility for burning down houses and churches in Christian villages (although it is unclear whether this was done in the context of Christmas).
- Routine attacks continued in ISIS’s various provinces in Syria, Iraq and throughout Africa and Asia. Noteworthy examples:
- Syria: Intensive activity continued in the Euphrates Valley and the desert region to its west, in the form of ambushing vehicles (detonation of IED and small arms fire). One noteworthy attack was the activation of an IED against a bus carrying soldiers of the Republican Guard in the desert region west of Deir ez-Zor (according to ISIS, 10 soldiers were killed). In clashes between Republican Guard forces and ISIS operatives, a Syrian officer with the rank of brigadier general was killed.
- Iraq: ISIS’s activity in northern and western Iraq focused on detonating IEDs and firing small arms, mortar shells and rockets at Iraqi security forces. Iraqi security forces arrested an ISIS squad that had planned to carry out a suicide bombing attack in Baghdad on Christmas.
- The Sinai Peninsula: ISIS’s activity in northern Sinai against the Egyptian security forces continues. This week, ISIS bombed a gas pipeline west of Al-Arish (the third of its kind of late). This time, too, only minor damage was caused to the pipeline.
- Nigeria: ISIS’s attacks continued against the Nigerian army in Borno State in northeastern Nigeria. In addition, attacks were carried out this week against villages with a Christian population. ISIS operatives burned down houses and churches in these villages.
- Afghanistan: ISIS operatives detonated an IED in Kabul against a bus carrying Afghan government officials. According to local Afghan media reports, one civilian was killed and five were wounded. According to ISIS, 20 people were killed or wounded. In addition, ISIS operatives fired rockets at the military section of Kabul International Airport and planted IEDs near the Kabul police headquarters.
- Dagestan: The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) uncovered a network of ISIS operatives in the capital of Dagestan. The operatives had planned to activate an IED near an office building and then carry out an attack against Interior Ministry employees.
The Syrian arena
The Idlib region
In the Idlib region, exchanges of artillery fire continued between the Syrian army and the forces supporting it, and Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and other rebel organizations. The incidents were focused on a region 30-40 km south and southwest of Idlib. There were also reports of Russian airstrikes in the Kabanah area, about 10 km southwest of Jisr al-Shughur (Edlib Media Center, November 24, 2020).
ISIS’s activity in Syria
The region of Deir ez-Zor and Al-Mayadeen
- On December 28, 2020, an IED was activated against a motorcycle of SDF fighters in the town of Hajin, about 25 km north of Albukamal. Two fighters were killed.
- On December 28, 2020, ISIS ambushed an SDF intelligence operative about 10 km northeast of Albukamal. He was captured and then executed.
- On December 28, 2020, persons unknown on a motorcycle tried to kill one of the civil council officials in Deir ez-Zor while he was taking a walk in the morning. He was wounded and evacuated for medical treatment (ANHA – Hawar News Agency, a Kurdish news website operating from Belgium, December 28, 2020). ISIS claimed responsibility for the attempted killing (Telegram, December 28, 2020).
- On December 27, 2020, ISIS operatives broke into the house of a mukhtar in a village about 60 km northeast of Deir ez-Zor. He was killed by machine gun fire.
- On December 27, 2020, an SDF vehicle was targeted by machine gun fire about 10 km north of Al-Mayadeen. Three fighters were killed.
- On December 26, 2020, an IED was activated against an SDF vehicle about 10 km north of Al-Mayadeen. Ten SDF fighters were killed or wounded and the vehicle was destroyed.
Right: Vehicle (a white van) carrying SDF fighters before it was hit by an IED in the village of Shahil, north of Al-Mayadeen. Left: The IED being activated (Telegram, December 26, 2020)
- On December 23, 2020, an SDF vehicle was targeted by machine gun fire about 70 km north of Deir ez-Zor. The passengers were wounded.
- On December 28, 2020, an SDF vehicle was targeted by machine gun fire about 25 km northwest of Al-Raqqah. Three fighters were killed.
The desert region (Al-Badia)
- On December 24, 2020, a powerful IED was activated against a bus carrying soldiers of the Republican Guard (an elite force of the Syrian regime) near the village of Ash-Shola (about 30 km southwest of Deir ez-Zor). After activating the IED, ISIS operatives fired light and medium weapons at the bus and the soldiers inside. Ten soldiers were reportedly killed and several others were wounded.
Site of the attack against the bus near Ash-Shola (Google Maps)
- On December 27, 2020, there were clashes between the Syrian army and ISIS operatives in the desert region west of Albukamal. Brigadier General (Amid) Mazen Ali Hassoun, a Republican Guard officer, was killed (ALBADIA24@24 Twitter account, December 27, 2020).
Brigadier General Mazen Ali Hassoun killed in the clashes with ISIS
(ALBADIA24@24 Twitter account, December 27, 2020)
SDF counterterrorism activities
- On the morning of December 27, 2020, the SDF announced with loudspeakers that the use of motorcycles was absolutely forbidden in the city of Al-Basira and the village of Al-Sabha north of Al-Mayadeen. According to the announcement, motorcycles of people violating the ban will be seized. In the past, the SDF had also forbidden the use of motorcycles in several towns and villages in the Deir ez-Zor region and even seized and burned dozens of motorcycles whose owners had violated the ban. According to the SDF, the ban on the use of motorcycles stems from ISIS’s use of motorcycles in attacks against SDF positions and patrols (Ayn al-Furat, eyeofeuphrates.com, December 27, 2020).
- On December 27, 2020, SDF fighters with International Coalition forces operated about 10 km northeast of Deir ez-Zor. An ISIS operative was caught. In addition, weapons and equipment in his possession were seized (Coordination & Military Ops Center – SDF@cmoc_sdf Twitter account, December 27, 2020).
The Iraqi arena
ISIS attacks in the various provinces
Salah al-Din Province
- On December 28, 2020, an IED was activated against a vehicle of the oil facilities police about 10 km north of Tikrit. One policeman was killed. A police officer with the rank of brigadier general was wounded.
- On December 25, 2020, ISIS operatives fired machine guns and threw hand grenades at Iraqi soldiers about 30 km north of Baghdad. One soldier was killed and another was wounded.
- On December 23, 2020, an Iraqi policeman was targeted by sniper fire in the Samarra region. He was killed.
- On December 22, 2020, an IED was activated against a Popular Mobilization vehicle east of Tikrit. The passengers were killed or wounded.
- On December 22, 2020, a rocket was fired at Popular Mobilization forces about 30 km south of Kirkuk.
- On December 21, 2020, two fighters of the Satan Party (the name probably refers to Kataeb Hezbollah) were targeted by sniper fire about 40 km southwest of Baghdad. Both fighters were wounded.
- On December 21, 2020, four mortar shells were fired at an Iraqi army compound about 10 km west of Mosul. According to ISIS, accurate hits of the target were observed.
Counterterrorism activities by the Iraqi security forces
- On December 27, 2020, Iraqi police teams detained a wanted operative who had served as commander of ISIS squads in the provinces of Kirkuk and Nineveh (Al-Sumaria, December 27, 2020).
- On December 27, 2020, International Coalition aircraft carried out an airstrike about 40 km southwest of Kirkuk. Two ISIS operatives were killed (Facebook page of Iraqi Armed Forces Spokesman Yahya Rasoul, December 27, 2020).
- On December 26, 2020, teams of the Kirkuk Intelligence Directorate captured two wanted ISIS operatives who were engaged in distributing allowances to families of ISIS operatives in the Kirkuk Province (Iraqi News Agency, December 26, 2020).
- On December 26, 2020, the Iraqi security forces captured an ISIS squad consisting of four operatives who had been part of ISIS’s Diyala sector. Squad members were suspected of intending to carry out a suicide bombing attack in Baghdad on Christmas (Al-Sumaria, December 26, 2020).
- On December 26, 2020, an Iraqi army force captured a senior ISIS operative about 60 km northwest of Mosul (Facebook page of the Iraqi Defense Ministry, December 26, 2020).
- On December 25, 2020, the Iraqi Counterterrorism Unit detained three ISIS operatives in the Hit region (Facebook page of the Iraqi Counterterrorism Unit, December 25, 2020).