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On SecurityApr 13, 2017 | 08:02 GMT
The Islamic State Loses an Important Ideological Weapon
The Islamic State Loses an Important Ideological Weapon
Last week, the Islamic State released the eighth edition of its Rumiyah monthly magazine. Its cover story: an article lionizing Rumiyah's former editor, Ahmad Abousamra, who was killed in January by a U.S.-led coalition airstrike near Tabqa, Syria. Other experts have already done a commendable job of retracing Abousamra's steps as he transformed from a graduate of the University of Massachusetts at Boston's computer science program to a propagandist of terrorism. (I encourage readers interested in his past to look at the profiles compiled by CNN's Paul Cruickshank and the Long War Journal's Thomas Joscelyn.) Rather than repeating their good work, I'd like to use Abousamra's case to look at the importance of propagandists to extremist groups like the Islamic State -- and the impact their removal from the battlefield can have in the fight against terrorism.
On SecurityMar 9, 2017 | 09:36 GMT
An image from an al Qaeda-inspired magazine shows Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in hell. Three years after the Islamic State defected from al Qaeda in an acrimonious and highly public split, many are still concerned that the two could someday reunite.
Can the Islamic State and al Qaeda Find Common Ground?
Three years after the Islamic State defected from al Qaeda in an acrimonious and highly public split, many are still concerned that the two could someday reunite. The warnings of figures like Georgetown University's Bruce Hoffman have been given new life over the past few months as the Islamic State continues to take heavy losses on the battlefields in Iraq and Syria. The idea of the global jihadist movement's two major poles joining forces is certainly a troubling one. The combined capabilities of the Islamic State and al Qaeda could pose a significant threat to the rest of the world, making them a much more dangerous enemy together than divided. But even with the Islamic State's recent setbacks, an alliance between it and al Qaeda would be far more difficult to accomplish than you might expect.
AssessmentsFeb 8, 2017 | 09:31 GMT
In September 2016, Abu Sayyaf, a jihadist group in the southern Philippines, bombed a market in Davao City. The attack was Abu Sayyaf's largest operation since the group declared its allegiance to the Islamic State in 2014.
For Philippine Jihadists, What's in a Name?
In the Philippines, concerns are mounting over the proliferation of Islamic State affiliates on the southern islands of Mindanao. Jihadist groups in the region have been coalescing under the extremist group's flag since Abu Sayyaf head Isnilon Hapilon declared his allegiance to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2014. Less than a decade earlier, Mindanao's various Islamic State affiliates were a jumble of local gangs engaged in criminal activity under the dubious banner of jihad. By adopting the Islamic State's moniker and mimicking some of its tactics, Hapilon and other jihadist leaders in the Philippines have gained legitimacy, along with notoriety, as part of a well-known, transnational movement. But beyond that, the benefits of taking up the Islamic State banner have been marginal. Al-Baghdadi, in fact, has yet to grant official wilayat status to Abu Sayyaf, even though Hapilon has a large following among Southeast Asian fighters in Syria. (The
On SecurityJan 12, 2017 | 08:03 GMT
The scene of an explosion on Aug. 20, 2016, in Gaziantep, Turkey, after a late-night militant attack on a wedding party that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the Islamic State was behind.
The Islamic State in 2017: Rotting From the Outside In
The Islamic State has entered into a slow decline that will continue throughout 2017. After its inception, the group was able to energize the jihadist movement and draw thousands of enthusiastic foreign fighters by announcing the creation of a caliphate and assuring its followers that the end of the world was near. This enabled the Islamic State to rapidly amass manpower and capabilities -- at least at first. But both time and geography have worked against the organization since its initial proclamation of a caliphate and an impending apocalypse.
On SecurityNov 17, 2016 | 08:00 GMT
Police officers stand near the truck used to plow through a crowd in Nice, France, on July 14. Based on the rampage's success, the Islamic State's Rumiyah magazine has encouraged the group's followers to conduct more attacks using large, paneled trucks.
Stopping Vehicular Attacks in Their Tracks
The most recent edition of the Islamic State's Rumiyah magazine has raised eyebrows for a number of reasons. Not only does it contain threats against Turkey, perhaps reflecting just how deeply Ankara's operations in northern Syria have cut into the Islamic State's supply lines, but it also includes a translation of a statement from the group's top leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The feature that has drawn the most attention, however, is an article encouraging the group's followers to conduct more vehicular assaults. The magazine even included guidance on how to successfully launch such an attack, echoing the second edition of al Qaeda's Inspire magazine. The article went on to highlight the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and other large public gatherings as prime targets, generating a good deal of concern among security professionals worldwide. But it is important to remember that the vehicular attack is not a new tactic and has
AssessmentsOct 27, 2016 | 09:30 GMT
In Syria, the Rebels Progress at Their Allies' Peril
In Syria, the Rebels Progress at Their Allies' Peril
Syrian rebels, with the help of the Turkish military, are slowly making their way across northern Aleppo province. As the rebels draw closer to the strategic city of al-Bab, their progress is wreaking havoc on the plans of the Syrian civil war's other participants. Kurdish and loyalist fighters -- as well as their U.S., Russian and Iranian backers -- will be forced to rethink their strategies as the risk of conflict with the advancing rebels rises.
ReflectionsAug 25, 2016 | 00:31 GMT
Turkey's Careful Incursion Into Syria
Turkey's Careful Incursion Into Syria
Turkey's long-anticipated incursion into Syria has begun, exactly 500 years after the Battle of Marj Dabiq, near Aleppo, heralded the Ottoman conquest of much of the Middle East. With Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) surging across Aleppo province, it was only a matter of time before Ankara increased its involvement in the Syrian civil war (though various hiccups forestalled its entry into the country). Even as its troops cross the border into Syria, however, Turkey's role in the conflict remains constrained by the risks inherent in the war and by its own weaknesses. Instead of a daring charge into Syria, Turkey has made a carefully calibrated entrance.
AssessmentsJun 13, 2016 | 09:45 GMT
Is the Islamic State being defeated?
Why the Islamic State Is Weaker Than It Seems
In Syria, the Islamic State is in crisis. Over the past three years, the group has managed to expand from a regional nuisance to a force with global relevance, declaring a caliphate in June 2014 that stretched from Iraq's Diyala province to Syria's Aleppo province. By doing so, it linked the two nations into a single zone of conflict and drew the attention of numerous powers, including the United States, Turkey and Russia. Today, the group maintains a presence from western Iraq to the Syria-Lebanon border -- an impressive territorial spread. But the breadth of the Islamic State's holdings in Syria is deceptive. The group's actual reach is largely limited to small, dispersed enclaves. The unbroken expanses of territory under its control are mostly empty desert. And a look at the group's three core Syrian areas -- northern Aleppo province, Raqqa and Deir el-Zour -- shows how the Islamic State is
AssessmentsApr 26, 2016 | 09:15 GMT
Islamic State Promises Violence in Bangladesh
The Islamic State Promises Violence in Bangladesh
The Islamic State is expanding its reach around the globe, and its latest focus is on Bangladesh. In the newest edition of its glossy magazine, Dabiq, the head of Islamic State operations in Bangladesh, Sheikh Abu Ibrahim al-Hanif, discussed the group's goals for the country. The group has carried out some small attacks in the country, but it wants to conduct a large attack to boost its credentials among local jihadists and promote the interests of the larger organization. As has been the case elsewhere, however, established jihadist groups in Bangladesh pose a challenge to the Islamic State's ambitions.
AssessmentsApr 12, 2016 | 09:00 GMT
Syrian government forces patrol near Aleppo's thermal power plant after they took control of the area on the eastern outskirts of Syria's northern embattled city from Islamic State (IS) group fighters on February 21, 2016. In two days Syrian government forces have taken more than a dozen villages from IS jihadists around a stretch of highway that runs east from the northern city of Aleppo to the Kweyris military base. / AFP / GEORGE OURFALIAN (Photo credit should read GEORGE OURFALIAN/AFP/Getty Images)
The Fate of Syria Rests in Aleppo
Syria's cease-fire is crumbling under the weight of current and pending military operations in the country. Focused on the province and city of Aleppo, the operations stand to play a decisive role in determining the direction of the civil war. In the coming weeks, the results of these battles could change the balance between rebels and loyalists, alter the Islamic State's position in the region, and influence the relationship between the United States and Turkey as they pursue conflicting objectives in Aleppo.
On SecurityJan 7, 2016 | 08:00 GMT
Militants of Islamic State are seen just before the explosion of airstrike on Tilsehir hill near the Turkish border on Oct. 23, 2014, at Yumurtalik village, in Sanliurfa province.
Gauging the Jihadist Movement in 2016: The Islamic State Camp
Last week's Security Weekly began our 2016 "Gauging the Jihadist Movement" series with a discussion of the status of the al Qaeda portion of the movement. As in prior years, we are considering jihadist goals along with theories of insurgency and terrorism to measure the status of the various components of the global movement. This week we will turn our attention to the Islamic State camp of the jihadist movement.
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