Global Terrorism Threat Analysis – August 2018

August 18

In Africa, al-Qaeda released a lecture of leader Ayman al-Zawahiri reminiscing about the August 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and calling upon Muslims to join al-Shabaab and carry out attacks on Western targets in East Africa. In the Lake Chad region, the Islamic State’s West Africa Province (ISWAP) released a rare new video to showcase its growing capabilities as they expand attacks against Nigerian and Nigerien troops. Finally, in West Africa, Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam waal Muslimeen (JNIM) carried out an attack on the day of the July 29 presidential elections and continued to aim its messaging at local ethnic groups to maneuver against the French presence in Mali, a common strategy employed by the al-Qaeda front.

In the Americas, the reporting of the Toronto, Canada shooting on July 22, in which two people were killed and three injured, by IS-linked media organization, al Amaq, followed official Canadian reports that the shooter was psychologically unstable and had no known links to radical Islamist groups. Al Amaq’s report underscored the extent to which IS and their associated media and social media groups are willing to attribute incidents, of which they have no prior or deep knowledge, to their campaign, in an attempt to bolster their own image. This has the effect of increasing the media reporting around the incident and furthering the public connection between shootings carried out by psychologically unstable Muslims and militancy. In general, such a trend is liable to catalyze violent acts from other mentally unhealthy individuals, particularly who identify with Islam, who are more likely to carry out copy-cat attacks, despite having no affiliation to Islamism or jihadist organizations.

In Asia, the month was marked by the first Islamic State (IS)-claimed attack in Tajikistan which bore consistencies to the known modus operandi of the group’s sympathizers. Meanwhile, a renewed Taliban offensive was recorded in Jowzjan Province of Afghanistan, which resulted in significant setbacks to the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) militant group’s operations, including territorial losses and the surrender of key commanders. This is likely to induce an operational push in the eastern provinces of the country as ISKP seeks to assert its continued capabilities. In the Philippines, IS claimed a vehicular explosion targeting a security checkpoint in Lamitan City, Basilan.

In the Middle East and North Africa, in light of its expected complete loss of all territories in Syria, the Islamic State (IS) has been increasingly adopting an insurgency-like strategy, as demonstrated by the kidnapping of dozens of Druze civilians in as-Suweida Province. In North Africa, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has increased its activity in Algeria and Tunisia in recent weeks, which in turn, is liable to enhance the competition with IS in the region, and lead to more symbolic attacks in the short term. Lastly, in Yemen, the unprecedented hostilities between al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the IS-affiliated Wilayat Bayda, including a video by IS slandering AQAP, continue to underline the persistent competition between the two jihadist groups for over the support of the local populace.