Global Terrorism Threat Analysis – January 2020

January 20

In Asia, the Taliban stepped up its attacks in relatively more secure northern provinces such as Balkh, likely in order to enter negotiations in a position of greater territorial strength. As of writing, the likelihood of a ceasefire from the group appears low. Meanwhile, IS affiliates in the Philippines were linked to attacks in Sulu, and such plots are liable to increase in the coming months with the withdrawal of martial law in the southern region.

In Europe, a series of stabbing attacks in France and Germany by psychologically unstable, radicalized individuals highlight the impact of the extensive media coverage of such attacks in motivating copy-cat incidents. Two foiled plots to carry out explosive attacks in public places in multiple countries including Austria and Denmark are indicative of the continued attempts of returning militants to form cells in order to orchestrate attacks, as well as the gaps in prison security and legal systems that could aid militant activity. Finally, an IS-linked media outlet’s claim on an attack in Magas, Ingushetia in Russia may be followed by organized campaigns targeting senior officials within the North Caucasus.

In the Middle East and North Africa, two jihadist groups, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and Hurras al-Din, signed a deconfliction agreement in Syria’s Idlib Province on December 14, 2019, to resolve their dispute. The agreement underscores both groups’ focus on a unified front against the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and demonstrates their ability to diplomatically solve their differences without resorting to a significant violent escalation. Meanwhile, in Yemen, Islamic State (IS)-affiliated Wilayat Yemen claimed two notable attacks in Aden and Ibb governorates in December 2019. These attacks highlight the group’s strategy to take advantage of the current volatile security climate in southern Yemen to showcase its remaining operational capabilities outside its primary area of operations, Bayda Governorate.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, al-Shabaab conducted two highly notable attacks, the first being a large-scale suicide vehicle-borne IED (SVBIED) at a checkpoint in Mogadishu that inflicted over 200 casualties, and the second being an attack on a US airfield in Manda Bay, Kenya. This continues to showcase their capabilities and interests in attacking Kenya and the West. In the Lake Chad basin, IS’s West Africa Province (ISWAP) has escalated its targeting of Christians, notably releasing a video of the execution of 11 Christians in orange jumpsuits that was highly reminiscent of imagery that IS used in Syria. In the Sahel, IS in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) claimed responsibility for a notable attack in Niger that exemplifies a recent trend of attacks on military bases incurring significant casualties, elevating their profile in contrast to the al-Qaeda umbrella group, Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam waal Muslimeen (JNIM).