Global Terrorism Threat Analysis – March 2019

March 19

Globally, the Pope’s visit to the UAE led to outrage from a number of Islamist groups who objected to the leader of the Catholic church setting foot on Muslim lands. This led to calls to attack both the UAE and Catholic institutions in Europe. Meanwhile, Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda (AQ)-linked media called for retaliatory attacks in response to the shootings at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand on March 16.

In Asia, Islamic State Khorasan Province stepped up its high-profile attacks in Afghanistan after a brief drop in operations. In India, the focus of jihadist messaging continued to center on the recent Pulwama attack in Kashmir and the Jaish-e-Mohammad’s involvement. Finally, IS-linked media called for the defense of China’s Uighur Muslims, which will raise concerns over future plots against Beijing’s trade and infrastructure interests in the region.

In Europe, the series of IED attacks in London’s transport hubs, which later were thought to be carried out by Irish republican factions, were capitalized on by pro-IS groups who released posters saying that London was in a state of terror. This comes following IS attempts to claim the drone disruptions at Heathrow airport in 2018. In this regard, a trend appears to be emerging where IS-linked groups attempt to use major security incidents in London to boost their public image. In the USA, pro-IS groups continued for calls to attack using various methods, such as stabbing and vehicular attacks, particularly focusing on the Capitol building in Washington DC, likely due to the recent Congressional elections and political tensions.

In the Middle East & North Africa, The Islamic State (IS) Wilayat Barakah released a video acknowledging the defeat in Deir Ezzor Province, with elaboration on those it places the blame on for its demise, as well as its steadfast convictions going forward. In Tunisia, IS executed a civilian accused of spying to deter collaboration of locals with security forces, and his body was bobby-trapped to inflict damage on high-ranking investigating officers. In Iran, Jaish al-Adl conducted a vehicle-borne IED (VBIED) attack targeting a bus carrying Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) personnel, highlighting growing capabilities of the group to conduct sophisticated, large-scale attacks.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, a complex attack against a Mogadishu hotel that lasted nearly a full day highlights al-Shabaab’s continued operational capabilities in central areas of the capital, while the group has also seen successes against the IS faction in northern Somalia. In the Lake Chad, reports of IS’s West Africa Province (ISWAP) leader being replaced remain unconfirmed, while the group has increased both the pace and geographical range of their attacks into areas known to be strongholds of Boko Haram, raising the chance of inter-militant fighting. In the Sahel, Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam waal Muslimeen (JNIM) released a video that showed its co-founder is alive despite France’s claims to have killed him in November 2018, raising doubts about France’s new claim to have killed another JNIM leader days earlier.