Global Terrorism Threat Analysis – May 2018

May 18

In Africa, the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Shabaab group released two videos in support of Jihad in Syria and Yemen, reinforcing the Somali group’s ties to the global organization and further alleviating its position within it, as it is currently one of the most active and effective branches of al-Qaeda. In the Lake Chad region, Boko Haram released a video of very poor quality purporting to depict a recent attack, however, various details indicate that it was either taken prior to the actual attack or was otherwise staged. This illustrates Boko Haram’s willingness to use any available means to attract international attention, even at the cost of jeopardizing their own credibility. Lastly, the al-Qaeda affiliated jihadist coalition Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam waal Muslimeen (JNIM) claimed a multi-pronged attack in Mali, while releasing a statement denying French Barkhane official’s claims that female suicide bombers were used in the attack, in an effort to not lose favor with local communities who would be opposed to such a tactic.

In Asia, the month of April witnessed the launch of the Taliban’s Spring Offensive in Afghanistan, and the group’s messaging has largely centered on detailing the annual operation’s objectives and successes in the field. The on-ground focus of this year’s operations is likely to be territorial expansion in the Northern provinces. In Pakistan, increased propaganda messaging from the Hizbul Ahrar (HuA), an offshoot of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, was accompanied by a series of attacks that signal the group’s nationwide ambitions. Finally, the significant upswing in jihadist attacks in Indonesia appears to have been underpinned by a steady increase in messaging in pro-Islamic State (IS) groups in recent weeks.

In Europe and the Americas, a Europol operation conducted in conjunction with the cyber-security units of a number of Western security forces was carried out against the online propaganda infrastructures of the Islamic State. Despite being able to gain intel and briefly shut down websites disseminating jihadist materials, the group’s major publication networks were up and running again within a few days. This underscored the importance and resilience of the group’s online networks in Europe. In Sweden, a series of arrests of Central Asian militants underscored the continuing threats of both homegrown cells and lone wolves of migrant backgrounds in Northern Europe.

In the Middle East and North Africa, the Islamic State (IS) conducted an attack in Tripoli against the headquarters of the country’s Electoral Commission. This is part of an overall wave of IS attacks targeting countries with elections, including Iraq and Afghanistan, with the aim of derailing these countries’ efforts at stabilization. Meanwhile, Somali al-Qaeda-affiliated militant group al-Shabaab released a message denouncing Turkey’s “killing of Muslims, spreading of heresy”, which while appealing to Turkey’s people, is more likely to reach radicalized individuals in Somalia. Finally, in Yemen, a decline in attacks by al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) was recorded, mainly due to the successful counter-militancy operations launched by the Saudi-led Coalition across central and southern Yemeni governorates.