On 14 July 2016, Bastille Day, a lorry zig-zagged along the seafront Promenade des Anglais in Nice for two kilometres (1.25 miles) during a fireworks display. Eighty-four people, including ten children, were murdered instantly and two-hundred-plus wounded, nearly two-dozen critically. Below is a compilation of the evidence so far, which indicates that the killer was a part of a substantial network acting on behalf of the Islamic State, though there is not yet any evidence of a direct contact with the terrorist state headquartered in Raqqa. Continue reading
A new report by me for the Henry Jackson Society (accessible here) is out today. It looks at those governing the statelet held by the Islamic State in parts of Syria and Iraq, and those who are orchestrating IS’s foreign terrorist attacks, including in Europe. The wave of attacks over Ramadan has been described as a “lone wolf” epidemic by many, but IS is coordinating this mayhem through its Amn al-Kharji, foreign intelligence service, and the report looks at who staffs this institution and the dangers of writing-off these attacks as the work of lone radicals with no connection to each other or IS. Continue reading
Published in The TelegraphSince early 2014, at the latest, the Islamic State (IS) has been plotting terrorist attacks in Europe. There has been a tendency, including during the wave of attacks in the last month in Europe, to favour the “lone wolf” explanation for IS-claimed terrorist attacks, where the killer’s only connection to IS is to be “inspired” by their online propaganda, but in reality the institutions of the caliphate stand behind this campaign.
The infiltration of IS’s enemies for the purposes of espionage and terrorism, whether this is government-held areas of Iraq and Syria or Western Europe, is led by Amn al-Kharji, the foreign service within IS’s sophisticated intelligence apparatus, as explained in a new report by The Henry Jackson Society. Continue reading
In advance of Jabhat al-Nusra rebranding as Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (JFS) on 28 July 2016, there were carefully coordinated media releases between al-Qaeda “central” (AQC) and al-Nusra. First, al-Manara al-Bayda (The White Minaret), al-Nusra’s media arm, released a six-minute audio speech by Abdullah Muhammad Rajab Abd al-Rahman (Abu Khayr al-Masri), identified as the deputy to al-Qaeda’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri; then there was the first ever picture of al-Nusra’s leader, Abu Muhammad al-Jolani, whose real name is Ahmad Husayn al-Shara, and shortly thereafter a video of al-Shara ostensibly severing ties with al-Qaeda; and finally the founding document for JFS was published. Continue reading
In Ansbach in Bavaria State, southern Germany, a suicide bomber blew himself up at a wine bar not far from the Ansbach Open music festival during the final concert around 22:10 on the evening of 24 July 2016. Fifteen people were injured, three gravely. The suicide-killer, who had wandered around the entranceway with a backpack, was soon identified as a twenty-seven-year-old Syrian refugee, Mohammad Daleel, who came to Germany in 2014. Daleel “lived in an old hotel that was converted into a refugee shelter”. Daleel had been rejected as an asylum seeker in Germany, where he was known to the authorities for petty criminality. Daleel was scheduled to be deported to Bulgaria within thirty days, though the deportation had been temporarily suspended while Daleel underwent a medical evaluation, and had been placed in a psychiatric clinic. Daleel had allegedly tried to commit suicide twice before the bombing. Continue reading
A horrifying video emerged on Tuesday of a teenage boy being beheaded. This had occurred the day before around Handarat in Aleppo, northern Syria. The boy had been fighting for Liwa al-Quds, a militia of the regime of Bashar al-Assad, composed mostly of Palestinians from the Nayrab camp and likely also from the unofficial settlement at Ayn al-Tal near Handarat. The rebel group that took him captive and then murdered him was Harakat Nooradeen al-Zengi, which had previously received support, including TOW anti-tank missiles, from the United States’ covert program run by the Central Intelligence Agency, though that support ended nearly a year ago. The episode is important in itself, and underlines some trends, namely al-Zengi’s evolution and the dynamics underway in northern Syria, where the U.S. is preparing to intensify its de facto policy of collaborating pro-Assad coalition against Jihadi-Salafist terrorist groups, which are strengthening al-Qaeda. Continue reading
On 18 July 2016, in the Heidingsfeld district of Würzburg of Bavaria in southern Germany, a seventeen-year-old Afghan refugee named Riaz Khan Ahmadzai (Muhammad Riyad), armed with a hatchet and a knife, wounded five civilians, two of them seriously, on a train between Treuchtlingen to Würzburg. The four people injured on the train were from the same family from Hong Kong; Ahmadzai/Riyad then wounded another civilian seriously as he jumped from the train. Ahmadzai, who had entered Germany as an unaccompanied minor and had been living in Ochsenfurt, Bavaria, was shot dead after a chase with police. Continue reading
A version of this article was published at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, “Under the Black Flag“
The extremist group now known as Islamic State (IS) first claimed statehood, with clear pretentions to a new caliphate, in 2006—and eight years later made it explicit.
“Now the dream has become a reality,” Taha Falaha (Abu Muhammad al-Adnani) said in his speech on June 29, 2014, declaring that the territory IS held in Syria and Iraq constituted the rebirth of the caliphate. “The State will remain.”
Two years later, this looks like an unsafe proposition. Continue reading
Last night Donald Trump unburdened himself of the view that Saddam Hussein was an efficient anti-terrorist operator. It is a statement Trump has made before, and it is one of such staggering ignorance—yet one which has such wide sympathy—that it seemed worth examining the multiple ways in which it was wrong. Continue reading
In the immediate aftermath of the 23 June referendum vote in which the United Kingdom chose to leave the European Union there was a good deal of chaos in British politics. The Prime Minister resigned, a full-scale revolt erupted against the Leader of the Opposition, the pound plunged to its lowest level since 1985, and a nasty spate of racist incidents were recorded across the country. At a week’s remove, some order has begun to re-assert itself. Continue reading