Global Terrorism Threat Analysis – March 2020

March 20

In the Americas, a 64-year-old woman was murdered with a hammer in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. During the investigation, homicide detectives alerted the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and Akhtar’s charge was amended to “first-degree murder – including terrorist activity”. A note was found under the victim’s body stating that the attack was committed for “terrorist reasons”.

In Asia, Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) staged high-profile attacks in the capital, indicating a relatively strong presence in Kabul despite declining operations in recent months. It is likely that the revival of plots after a lull is intended to dampen the sentiment surrounding the Taliban’s February 29 deal with the US. In Bangladesh, IS claimed an attack in Chittagong, reflecting the growing operations of the group’s affiliates in peripheral divisions.

In Europe, the Islamic State (IS) has reportedly issued an advisory to its members on March 15 in ‘al-Naba’, its weekly newsletter, to avoid traveling to Europe due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The group states to “stay away from the land of the epidemic” and the advisory contains “religious directives” including wearing a mask and washing hands. In the UK, an inmate with no recorded history of Islamist extremism reportedly attempted a stabbing attack in Winchester prison. The assailant had been convicted of manslaughter for an acid attack murder in July 2019. On February 18, the inmate faked a suicide attempt to draw officers into his cell. In Russia,  the FSB reportedly dismantled an unnamed international Islamist militant organization’s cell in Rostov-on-Don. The cell’s ringleader, an Afghani national, was recruiting residents into the organization active in the Afghan-Pakistani community and was in charge of creating a local cell ready to commit militant attacks in Russia and abroad on instructions from external actors.

In the Middle East and North Africa, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) released several statements of support for the civilians of northwestern Syria, including notably stating that it will allow international aid organizations to operate in the area, in an effort to portray the group as pragmatic and a legitimate governing entity. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) released a video titled “Demolishing of the Espionage”, highlighting heightened concerns of spies within the organization following the killing of its leader by the US in an airstrike in January.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, al-Shabaab released a three-page statement accusing the US of targeting civilians with drone strikes, presenting their statistics of civilian deaths to leverage negative public sentiment against foreign intervention. In the Lake Chad basin region, unconfirmed the leader of IS’s West Africa Province (ISWAP) was ousted and killed, the second leadership change in a year. In the Sahel, al-Qaeda’s Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam waal Muslimeen (JNIM) released a statement accepting the Malian government’s offer for dialogue, on the condition of France’s withdrawal. This is likely to eliminate a strong foreign force in the country while also appealing to the civilian population, which is increasingly anti-France.