MAX – Global Terrorism Threat Analysis – March 2018

March 18

The most prominent Jihadi-related event this passing month was the release of a video by al-Qaeda’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, which addresses the people of North and West Africa in an attempt to rally them against Western presence as a whole, and specifically against the French, who maintain a high profile in the region.

In Africa, on February 23 al-Shabaab conducted its first successful suicide vehicle-borne IED (SVBIED) attack in Mogadishu in four months, and released a claim for the attack in English, focusing on the killing of security personnel in an effort to portray the attack as legitimate. Most notably in Lake Chad was a video released by Boko Haram depicting a commander, who was previously released in a deal with the government, participating in an attack, likely as an effort to make the Nigerian government appear weak to its people. The al-Qaeda affiliated jihadist coalition Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam waal Muslimeen (JNIM) conducted attacks in Ouagadougou on March 3, aganist French targets among others, in an effort to deter foreign intervention in the Sahel. In a similar effort, the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) released graphic footage of the killing of four US soldiers in the October attack in Niger, likely in attempt to turn US public opinion against operations in the region.

In Asia, the Islamic State (IS) messaging over the last month indicated the group’s growing desire to project its presence in the region. This was notably evident in Afghanistan, where Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) sought to highlight its appeal as a haven for similarly-inclined fighters from abroad. This was also observed in India, where the group claimed its second attack in the Kashmir State. Meanwhile, in Pakistan, the death of a notable Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader does not appear to have hindered the group’s operations. A future replacement is likely to be chosen with strong tribal connections, in order to avoid defections to IS. Finally, Bangladesh’s current political tensions can be expected to significantly inform trends in militancy, especially ahead of the elections later this year.

In Europe, IS-linked telegram groups released propaganda images calling for attacks in Spain, specifically singling out Barcelona. The publication underscores the extent to which the ideology of the group remains prevalent in Europe and still has the potential to inspire lone-wolf attacks from locally radicalized individuals.

In the Middle East and North Africa, a new rebel alliance named Jabhat Tahrir Suriyah (JTS) was formed in northern Syria to contain the influence of the al-Qaeda-linked Tahrir al-Sham. In the Persian Gulf, IS’s recent uptick of activity in southern Yemen is likely an attempt to portray heightened capabilities. In North Africa, a al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) attack was likely an attempt to offset the view of the group as declining. In Libya, recent IS claimed attacks are likely an effort to project group’s strength, thus attracting fighters fleeing Syria and Iraq. Lastly, in Egypt, al-Naba magazine’s focus on Wilayat Sinai’s ‘Defensive Campaign’ against ‘Operation Sinai 2018’ is likely meant to portray resilience.