THEO VAN GOGH INTEL: Despite expectations, a cyber-blitz has not occurred in Ukraine. Experts explain why

JULY 1, 2022 BY JOSEPH FITSANAKIS 

IN THE OPENING STAGES of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, there was a widespread expectation among security experts that the world would witness a new chapter in the history of cyber-warfare: something akin to carpet-bombing in cyberspace. These fears, however, have not materialized.

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MESOP WATCH INTEL BY MEIR AMIT CENTER / ISRAEL – Spotlight on Global Jihad (June 23-29 , 2022)

Main events of the past week
  • This week, the scope of ISIS’s activity around the globe was relatively limited. Most of the activity took place in Syria, the Sinai Peninsula and Africa.
  • The Sinai Peninsula: The Egyptian army and the Sinai Tribal Union continued to operate in the region west of Rafah, sustaining several casualties. Several ISIS operatives turned themselves in. Several other operatives were killed in the Maghara region, in central Sinai.
  • Syria: The US army announced that it had killed a senior member of Hurras al-Din (the Guardians of Religion Organization), an Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria. Joint forces of the Kurdish SDF and the Global Coalition against ISIS killed a number of ISIS operatives and detained several others in the Deir ez-Zor and Al-Hasakah region. The Syrian army launched an operation against ISIS in the desert region. At least nine Syrian soldiers were killed this week.
  • Afghanistan: ISIS carried out a number of small-scale attacks against Taliban members.
  • Africa: ISIS continued its “routine” activity, coupled with intensive activity against Christian residents in the Cabo Delgado Province, in northeastern Mozambique.
The Sinai Peninsula
  • ISIS’s Sinai Province announced that on June 28, 2022, its operatives had activated an IED against a joint patrol of the Egyptian army and the Sinai Tribal Union in the Dhiba region, west of Rafah. One fighter was killed and two others were wounded (Telegram, June 28, 2022). Local sources confirmed that a Sinai Tribal Union fighter was killed in the area (Akhbar Sinaa al-Aan Facebook page, June 28, 2022). According to ISIS, the day before, June 27, 2022, its operatives activated an IED against a Sinai Tribal Union patrol near the Rafah beach; a Sinai Tribal Union fighter was killed and others were wounded (Telegram, June 28, 2022). In this case as well, local sources confirmed that a Sinai Tribal Union fighter was killed in the area (Akhbar Sinaa al-Aan Facebook page, June 27, 2022).
  • On June 27, 2022, a Sinai Tribal Union fighter was killed fighting against ISIS operatives west of Rafah (Akhbar Sinaa al-Aan Facebook page, June 27, 2022). The day before as well, June 26, 2022, a fighter was killed fighting against ISIS in Al-Matlah, west of Rafah (Akhbar Sinaa al-Aan Facebook page, June 26, 2022). ISIS’s Sinai Province announced that its operatives had fired at a Sinai Tribal Union patrol in the Dhiba region, west of Rafah, wounding two fighters. In addition, ISIS reported that its operatives had activated an IED against a Sinai Tribal Union patrol on the Rafah beach, in the north of the city; a fighter was killed and two others were wounded (Telegram, June 26, 2022).
  • According to ISIS, on June 23, 2022, an IED was activated against an Egyptian army patrol west of Rafah. Two soldiers were killed and several others were wounded (Telegram, June 23, 2022). ISIS’s Sinai Province reported that its operatives had activated an IED against a Sinai Tribal Union patrol near the Rafah beach; two fighters were killed and several others were wounded (Telegram, June 23, 2022).
  • Sinai Tribal Union fighters killed three senior ISIS operatives (emirs), apparently in the Rafah region (Akhbar Sinaa al-Aan Facebook page, June 25, 2022).
  • On June 24-25, 2022, two operatives, five wives and five children of ISIS operatives turned themselves in (Akhbar Sinaa al-Aan Facebook page, June 24-26, 2022).
  • Due to the Egyptian security forces’ activity in the region, three ISIS operatives, apparently Palestinians, fled the Rafah region to the Gaza Strip (Akhbar Sinaa al-Aan Facebook page, June 25, 2022).
ISIS operative who turned himself in to the Egyptian security forces 
(Akhbar Sinaa al-Aan Facebook page, June 24-26, 2022)
ISIS operative who turned himself in to the Egyptian security forces
(Akhbar Sinaa al-Aan Facebook page, June 24-26, 2022)
  • On June 25, 2022, the Egyptian security forces located an ISIS depot in Al-Matlah, west of Rafah. It contained substances and equipment for making IEDs (Akhbar Sinaa al-Aan Facebook page, June 26, 2022).
  • A Sinai Tribal Union force carrying out searches in the Maghara region in central Sinai, about 30 km south of Bir al-Abd, killed two ISIS operatives. Weapons and food were found near the bodies (Akhbar Sinaa al-Aan Facebook page, June 28, 2022). According to another report, five ISIS operatives were killed in the area and the wife and children of one of them were detained (Abtal Shimal Sinaa Facebook page, June 28, 2022).
The Syrian arena
Map of the Syrian provinces (freeworldmaps.net)
Map of the Syrian provinces (freeworldmaps.net)
The Aleppo region
  • The US army announced that on June 27, 2022, it carried out a “kinetic strike” targeting Abu Hamza al-Yemeni, a leader of the Hurras al-Din jihadist group (the Guardians of Religion Organization), an Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, in the rebel enclave in Idlib (CENTCOM, June 27, 2022).
  • On June 26-27, 2022, heavy exchanges of fire occurred between jihadi organizations and the Syrian army and the forces supporting it in Jabal al-Akrad, northeast of Latakia (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, June 26, 2022).
  • HTS, the dominant organization in the rebel enclave in Idlib, launched an arrest campaign against the Ansar al-Islam jihadist organization. The campaign is part of the organization’s activity to establish itself in the rebel enclave and rein in rogue and rival organizations (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, June 27, 2022).
The desert region (Al-Badia)
  • At least nine Syrian soldiers were killed on June 22-23, 2022, in an exchange of fire with ISIS operatives in Jabal Bishri, in the southern rural area of the Al-Raqqah Province. ISIS reportedly sustained many casualties as well (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, June 22-23, 2022).
  • After sustaining at least 26 casualties in a series of ISIS attacks in the desert region, on June 24, 2022, the Syrian army, with the support of militias loyal to it and the Russian Air Force, launched an operation against ISIS squads in the desert region, between the provinces of Al-Raqqah and Deir ez-Zor (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, June 24, 2022).
The Deir ez-Zor-Al-Mayadeen region
  • A senior local ISIS operative was detained on June 25, 2022, in a joint operation of the SDF and the Global Coalition against ISIS in the Al-Basira region, about 15 km north of Al-Mayadeen. The operative had been in charge of sending operatives, including ISIS’s suicide bombers, and providing weapons to ISIS squads (kurdistan24, June 25, 2022). The day after, the forces killed at least two ISIS commanders north of Deir ez-Zor and detained at least four ISIS operatives east of Deir ez-Zor (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, June 26, 2022).
The Al-Hasakah region
  • According to Kurdish sources, on June 26, 2022, two armed men on motorcycles, who arrived at the village of Ali Aga, about 120 km northeast of Al-Hasakah, killed three SDF fighters and wounded four others (ANHA, June 27, 2022). ISIS’s Syria Province reported that its operatives had fired machine guns at an SDF vehicle, killing four SDF fighters and wounding three others (Telegram, June 26, 2022).
  • On June 24, 2022, a joint force of the SDF and the Global Coalition against ISIS detained a senior ISIS operative (emir) in the city of Al-Hasakah. He had been in charge of sending motorcycles and IEDs to ISIS operatives in northeastern Syria and smuggling families of ISIS operatives out of the Al-Hawl detention camp (ANHA, June 26, 2022; Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, June 26, 2022).
  • Leaflets distributed by an ISIS operative northeast of the city of Al-Hasakah were found. They contained threats against residents who expressed support for the Bashar al-Assad regime (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, June 24, 2022).
One of the leaflets distributed in the Al-Hasakah Province 
(Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, June 24, 2022)
One of the leaflets distributed in the Al-Hasakah Province
(Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, June 24, 2022)
The Iraqi arena


Provinces of Iraq (Wikipedia)

ISIS attacks by province[1]
  • This week as well, ISIS’s attacks remained relatively few in number.
Diyala Province
  • On June 25, 2022, ISIS operatives fired machine guns at an Iraqi police compound in the village of Abadah, west of Baqubah, about 35 km northeast of Baghdad. One policeman was wounded, and a thermal camera was destroyed (Telegram, June 26, 2022).
Salah al-Din Province
  • ISIS operatives fired at an Iraqi army patrol near the Talul al-Baj region, about 15 km southwest of Al-Shirqat. One soldier was killed and three others were wounded (Telegram, June 23, 2022).
Summary of ISIS’s activity in the various provinces
  • An infographic published by ISIS, summing up its activity around the world in the period between June 16 and June 22, 2022, indicates that the organization carried out 53 attacks in its various provinces around the globe (compared to 59 in the previous week). The largest number of attacks was carried out in the West Africa Province (16). Attacks carried out in the other provinces: Khorasan, i.e., Afghanistan (11); Iraq (10); Mozambique (8); Sinai (3); Central Africa (2); Syria (1); Pakistan (1); and Somalia (1). A total of 131 people were killed or wounded in the attacks, compared to 262 in the previous week (a 50 percent decrease). The largest number of casualties was in the Khorasan Province (46). The other casualties were in the following provinces: West Africa (33); Syria (16); Mozambique (13); Sinai (10); Central Africa (6); Iraq (6); and Pakistan (1) (Al-Naba, Telegram, June 23, 2022).
  •  The infographic indicates that the number of ISIS attacks remained similar to the previous week, despite the dramatic decrease in the number of casualties. There was an increase in the number of attacks in the Khorasan Province (11 compared to 6 last week). The most noteworthy attack was carried out in a Sikh temple in Kabul.
Summary of ISIS attacks (Al-Naba weekly, Telegram, June 23, 2022)
Summary of ISIS attacks (Al-Naba weekly, Telegram, June 23, 2022)
ISIS attacks by week (according to ISIS data)

ISIS attacks by week (according to ISIS data)

Africa

Nigeria
  • ISIS continued its activity against the Nigerian army in Borno State, in northeastern Nigeria. It also carried out attacks on a Christian town in Adamawa State, south of Borno State, and on a Nigerian police headquarters in the town of Okihi, in Kogi State, in southern Nigeria.
  • On June 25, 2022, an IED was activated against a Nigerian army vehicle in the town of Baga, about 150 km northeast of Maiduguri, in the northeast of the country. Five soldiers were killed (Telegram, June 27, 2022).
  • On June 23, 2022, an attack was carried out against a Nigerian police headquarters in the town of Okihi. A policeman was killed and the headquarters and two vehicles were set on fire. In addition, three assault rifles and military equipment were seized (Telegram, June 24, 2022).
  • On June 23, 2022, three mortar shells were fired at a Nigerian army compound in the town of Sabon Gari, about 130 km southwest of Maiduguri. According to ISIS, accurate hits were observed (Telegram, June 23, 2022).
  • On June 22, 2022, a Nigerian army compound was attacked in the town of Ajiri, about 15 km south of Maiduguri. The soldiers fled, and ISIS operatives seized an assault rifle and military equipment (Telegram, June 24, 2022).
  • On June 25, 2022, an attack was carried out against the Christian town of Botoku, in Adamawa State. An exchange of fire took place with the Nigerian army and the militias supporting it. Five militia fighters and one soldier were killed. A motorcycle was seized (Telegram, June 27, 2022).
The Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Attack on government targets: On June 25, 2022, operatives of ISIS’s Central Africa Province fired at a Congolese army officer riding a motorcycle on the Kiliya-Boiriri road, in the Rwenzori area, in the Beni region, not far from the border with Uganda. The officer was killed and his motorcycle was set on fire (Telegram, June 25, 2022).
  • Attack on Christian villages: On June 25, 2022, an attack was carried out against the Christian village of Kissima, in the Beni region. Six civilians were killed and several houses were set on fire (Telegram, June 26, 2022). The day before, ISIS operatives attacked the Christian village of Samboko, also in the region area. Seven civilians were killed and three others were wounded. Several houses and shops were set on fire. Some of the residents’ property was seized by ISIS operatives (Telegram, June 26, 2022).
Mozambique
  • This week, ISIS’s Mozambique Province continued to carry out attacks against Christian villages and military targets in the Cabo Delgado Province in northeastern Mozambique.
  • ISIS’s Al-Naba weekly published an infographic summing up the activity of the Mozambique Province between June 4 and June 20, 2022 (17 days). According to the infographic, during this period, the province’s operatives carried out 19 attacks against the Mozambican army and Christian villages, in which 33 people were killed (23 Christian civilians and 10 soldiers). More than 250 homes and nine churches were set on fire, leaving over 11,000 residents homeless. In addition, tremendous economic damage was caused (Al-Naba weekly, Telegram, June 23, 2022). It should be noted that in the past month, there has been a dramatic increase in the scope of the Mozambique Province’s activity against the Christian population in the northeast of the country. Last week, the province even expanded its sphere of activity south of the Cabo Delgado Province, to the Nampula Province to its south, along the northeast coast of Mozambique.
Summary of the activity of the Mozambique Province 
(Al-Naba weekly, Telegram, June 23, 2022)
Summary of the activity of the Mozambique Province
(Al-Naba weekly, Telegram, June 23, 2022)
Somalia
  • The security forces of the state of Puntland, in northeastern Somalia, announced that on June 24, 2022, they had killed seven ISIS-affiliated operatives during an operation aimed at disrupting ISIS’s activity in the coastal city of Hafun, about 250 km southeast of Bosaso. The forces also captured seven additional operatives in the town of Timirshe, about 150 km southeast of Bosaso (Macao News Agency, June 25, 2022).
Mali
  • On June 24, 2022, the Malian army announced that it had neutralized 50 Al-Qaeda-affiliated operatives in the Diallassagou region in central Mali. This operation was carried out following a terrorist attack in the region and two nearby villages on the night of June 18-19, 2022. A total of 132 people were killed in the attack, which is believed to have been carried out by extremists from the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Macina Katiba organization. The organization has denied any connection to the massacre of the civilians, the worst attack in years in Mali (Al-Arabiya, June 25, 2022).
Burkina Faso
  • On June 20, 2022, the Burkina Faso army ordered residents living in two areas in the north of the country and in the southeast to evacuate and reach safer areas. This is in preparation for a large-scale military operation against Islamic terrorist operatives. It should be noted that since 2015, Burkina Faso has been fighting against Islamic terrorist operatives, some of whom are affiliated with Al-Qaeda and others with ISIS. As a result, more than 1.85 million people have been displaced from their homes (Reuters, June 21, 2022).

Asia

Afghanistan
  • On June 25, 2022, ISIS’s Khorasan Province announced that its operatives detonated an IED against a Taliban vehicle in Kabul. Five Taliban members were killed or wounded (Telegram, June 25, 2022). The day before, ISIS operatives detonated a sticky bomb against a Taliban commander’s vehicle in the village of Jaghal, in the Imam Saheb region of the Kunduz Province, in northeastern Afghanistan. Three Taliban members were killed and the commander was wounded (Telegram, June 24, 2022).
Yemen
  • On June 22, 2022, armed men, apparently Al-Qaeda operatives, attacked a position of the Yemeni security forces in Ataq, in the center of Shabwah Province in southern Yemen. Five soldiers from the Yemeni Transitional Council were killed. The Council is supported by the United Arab Emirates and operates against the Houthis, Al-Qaeda, and Yemeni government forces. Three of the armed men were also killed (The New Arab, June 22, 2022).

Europe

Germany

  • The Public Prosecutor’s Office in Düsseldorf, Germany, has filed a lawsuit against a 46-year-old German citizen on charges of funding HTS, which operates in Syria and is designated as a terrorist organization by Germany. He used the Internet to raise funds for HTS. If convicted, he is expected to serve a six-month to five-year sentence (Orient News, June 23, 2022).
The battle for hearts and minds
  • The editorial in this week’s issue of ISIS’s Al-Naba weekly, entitled “Victory for the Chosen Prophet,” dealt with the issue of insulting Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, by members of India’s ruling party which has caused a stir in the Islamic world over the past month. The message in the article is that the most effective response against those who attack the Prophet is jihad. The author notes that in the Quran, Allah commanded his followers to fight, torture and torment those who offend His religion and His prophet, and that jihad is the ultimate realization of this. The author criticizes the Islamic elements (alluding mainly to those affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Qaeda), who express protest and condemnation in the electronic media while refraining from jihad. The author emphasizes that the Christians (“worshipers of the cross”) yesterday and the Hindus (“worshipers of the cows”) today permit themselves to speak out against Islam and its Prophet because Muslims do not respond by waging jihad. The author ends the article by calling on all Muslims to act through jihad to defend the Prophet (Al-Naba weekly, Telegram, June 23, 2022).
  • Following the attack on the Sikh temple in Afghanistan, which ISIS described as an act of revenge against the Hindu and Sikh “infidels,” carried out in light of statements made by members of India’s ruling party against the Prophet of Islam, ISIS felt that it had an advantage over other Islamic elements, since those elements made do with threats. Therefore, it is attempting to present itself as a “defender of Islam” and its Prophet, in order to leverage this to strengthen its status, garner support and recruit operatives. This idea also appeared in the Al-Naba weekly’s lead article, which was devoted to the Sikh temple attack, presenting it as an act of protecting the good name of the Prophet and the Sikh temple as a “Sikh and Hindu temple,” in order to include India’s Hindu majority in the equation[2].
The text of the editorial in Al-Naba weekly (Al-Naba weekly, Telegram, June 23, 2022)
The text of the editorial in Al-Naba weekly (Al-Naba weekly, Telegram, June 23, 2022)
Calls on ISIS operatives in Africa to step up their attacks
  • On June 24, 2022, ISIS’s Syria Province released a six-minute video entitled “From the Soil of Syria to the Lions of Africa.” In the video, masked operatives from Syria call on ISIS operatives in Africa to step up their attacks against local governments, against their supporters and against Christians in general and in Africa in particular. The video calls on Muslims operating within local governments to cease to do so, otherwise, they will be severely attacked by ISIS (Telegram, June 24, 2022).
The video “From the Soil of Syria to the Lions of Africa” (Telegram, June 24, 2022)
The video “From the Soil of Syria to the Lions of Africa” (Telegram, June 24, 2022)
Appendix
Additional ISIS attacks (according to ISIS’s claims of responsibility)
Iraq
Salah al-Din Province
  • On June 21, 2022, an Iraqi soldier was targeted by gunfire in the Sheikh Hamad region, northeast of Al-Taji, about 20 km north of Baghdad. He was wounded (Telegram, June 22, 2022).
Kirkuk Province
  • On June 21, 2022, an IED was activated against an Iraqi army vehicle south of Daquq, about 30 km south of Kirkuk. The vehicle was put out of commission (Telegram, June 21, 2022).
Nigeria
  • On June 24, 2022, a Nigerian army “spy” was abducted and executed near the town of Mafa, about 50 km east of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, in northeastern Nigeria (Telegram, June 25, 2022).
  • On June 20, 2022, an IED was activated against a Nigerian army vehicle on the road between the towns of Bama and Swei in Borno State. The vehicle was put out of commission and the passengers on board were killed or wounded (Telegram, June 21, 2022).
  • On June 20, 2022, two Nigerian government vehicles were set on fire in the town of Adavi, in Kogi State, in southern Nigeria (Telegram, June 21, 2022).
  • On June 19, 2022, an IED was activated against a Nigerian army armored vehicle near the town of Goniri, about 45 km southeast of Damaturu, the capital of Yobe State. The passengers on board were killed or wounded (Telegram, June 21, 2022).
  • On June 19, 2022, ISIS attacked the village of Kodobi, near the Christian town of Askira Uba, about 130 km south of Maiduguri. A Christian resident was killed and several houses were set on fire (Telegram, June 20, 2022).
  • On June 19, 2022, an IED was activated against a Nigerian army patrol attempting to advance towards ISIS positions near the town of Matari, in Borno State. The passengers on board a vehicle were killed or wounded (Telegram, June 20, 2022).
The Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • On June 27, 2022, ISIS attacked the Christian village of Mabu, in the Beni region, about 50 km from the Congo-Uganda border. Seven Christian residents were killed and their homes were set on fire (Telegram, June 28, 2022).
  • On June 21, 2022, ISIS fired at a convoy of Christian residents on the Kasindi-Beni road. Five Christians were killed and four vehicles were set on fire (Telegram, June 22, 2022).
Truck set on fire in the village of Makisabo (Telegram, June 22, 2022)
Truck set on fire in the village of Makisabo (Telegram, June 22, 2022)
  • On June 21, 2022, ISIS fired at a Congolese army compound in the village of Halongoba, in the Beni region. One soldier was killed. A rocket launcher and ammunition were seized, and the compound was set on fire (Telegram, June 21, 2022).
  • On June 21, 2022, a police force was targeted by machine gun fire in the village of Mabassil, about 30 km north of Beni. One policeman was killed. Four homes of Christian residents were set on fire in the area (Telegram, June 23, 2022).
Mozambique
  • On June 27, 2022, ISIS attacked the Christian village of Mahican, in the Ancuabe District, in the Cabo Delgado Province. A Christian resident was executed (Telegram, June 28, 2022).
  • On June 26, 2022, ISIS attacked the Christian village of Tandako, in the Macomia region, in the eastern side of the Cabo Delgado Province, in northeastern Mozambique. A Christian resident was killed and another one was wounded. Several homes and a church were set on fire (Telegram, June 26, 2022).
  • On June 24, 2022, ISIS attacked the Christian village of Mahican. A Christian resident was executed and the homes of the residents were set on fire (Telegram, June 24, 2022).
  • On June 24, 2022, ISIS attacked the Christian village of Nambini in the Macomia region. Several homes were set on fire (Telegram, June 24, 2022).
  • On June 24, 2022, ISIS attacked the Christian village of Nakoy in the Macomia region. The Christian residents fled. Several homes and a church were set on fire (Telegram, June 24, 2022).
  • On June 23, 2022, ISIS ambushed and abducted two Christian residents on the road to the village of Nakoy. Their motorcycles were set on fire (Telegram, June 24, 2022).
  • On June 22, 2022, ISIS attacked the Christian village of Capani, in the Ancuabe District. Homes and property of Christian residents were set on fire (Telegram, June 22, 2022).
  •  On June 20, 2022, ISIS attacked a Mozambican army compound in the village of Muimbi Jo, in the Nangade region, in the Cabo Delgado Province. Weapons and ammunition were seized and homes of Christian residents were set on fire (Telegram, June 21, 2022).
ISIS operatives in a compound that had been used by the Mozambican army in the village of Muimbi Jo, in the Nangade region, in the Cabo Delgado Province, on June 20, 2022 
(Telegram, June 21, 2022)
   ISIS operatives in a compound that had been used by the Mozambican army in the village of Muimbi Jo, in the Nangade region, in the Cabo Delgado Province, on June 20, 2022 
(Telegram, June 21, 2022)
ISIS operatives in a compound that had been used by the Mozambican army in the village of Muimbi Jo, in the Nangade region, in the Cabo Delgado Province, on June 20, 2022
(Telegram, June 21, 2022)
  •  On June 19, 2022, ISIS attacked the Christian village of Makaya, in the Ancuabe District, in the Cabo Delgado Province. ISIS operatives beheaded two Christians and set two churches on fire (Telegram, June 20, 2022).
Churches set on fire by ISIS (Telegram, June 20, 2022)   Churches set on fire by ISIS (Telegram, June 20, 2022)
Churches set on fire by ISIS (Telegram, June 20, 2022)
Afghanistan
  • On June 20, 2022, an IED was activated against a vehicle of a Taliban commander in the Ghani Khail region, in the Nangarhar Province. Five Taliban members, including the commander, were killed or wounded (Telegram, June 20, 2022).
Pakistan
  • On June 20, 2022, operatives of ISIS’s Khorasan Province shot and killed a Pakistani policeman in the city of Peshawar, about 30 km east of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border (Telegram, June 21, 2022).
  • On June 20, 2022, ISIS’s Pakistan Province operatives shot and killed a Shiite resident in the Iqbal Town region in the city of Rawalpindi, south of Islamabad (Telegram, June 20, 2022).

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