The 283rd edition of Islamic State’s (IS) weekly newsletter, Al-Naba, released on 22 April 2021, contained the usual reports on IS’s guerrilla and terrorist operations, stretching from Africa to Syria and Iraq at the “Centre” to South Asia, plus the main editorial and an ideological essay. Amid the reports was IS’s response to a controversial episode in eastern Syria involving the Russians, and a sign of an uptick in IS’s operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan as the U.S.-led NATO forces prepare to abandon Afghanistan.
RUSSIA’S “BIG LIE” IN SYRIA
The Wall Street Journal reported on 21 April that Russia had launched airstrikes against an IS training camp in Palmyra on 19 April and “killed as many as 200 militants”. The sources for this were Alexander Karpov, deputy chief of the Russian Center for Reconciliation of the Opposing Parties in Syria, and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), which “said 26 Islamic State members died in Russian airstrikes in Palmyra and other areas of the central Syrian desert in recent days”. Neither of these sources can be trusted.
The Journal then added: “The airstrikes came after Islamic State claimed to have killed two Russian soldiers who attempted to land in a helicopter in Syria’s Homs province”, which refers to a 17 April claim by IS to have killed two Russians and wounded more near Sukhna in the Badiya of eastern Reef Homs.
This is the background.
Al-Naba 283 features an article on page 8 under the headline, “A Security Source Denies to Al-Naba the Big Russian Lies!”
Al-Naba says that the Russians had carried out bombings in the deserts near Sukhna on 16 April as part of the pro-Asad coalition’s recent offensive in the area, and on the afternoon of 17 April, “the mujahideen targeted the [Russian] helicopter while it was landing and opened fire with their weapons directly at the Russian forces who were about to disembark, killing two soldiers, wounding others, and damaging the helicopter” and the Russians were so surprised that they were unable to return fire effectively, with Al-Naba’s “source” “stressing that no mujahideen were injured during the operation”.
It was after this embarrassing incident that the Russians came out with “the ‘big’ lie … about the killing of ‘200 Mujahideen’ in an airstrike near Palmyra”, says Al-Naba, adding that its source denounced the Kremlin’s claim as a “scandalous lie”.
[UPDATE: Shortly after this post went up, unofficial IS media claimed that the Palmyra strike did take place, but only killed one IS jihadist, naming him as a Russian-speaking Tajik, Abu Turab al-Farsi (pictured below).]
ISLAMIC STATE STEPS UP AS THE WEST DRAWS DOWN IN AFGHANISTAN
First, on page 7, IS gloats over its assassination of two Taliban officials in Pakistan on 19 April. IS says that it shot dead a Taliban “leader”, Mullah Naik Muhammad Rahbar, in his car in Peshawar, while also killing a Taliban “security official” from Jalalabad Mawlawi Aziz, and wounding two other people who were travelling with them.
Al-Naba says the assassination of Rahbar was “revenge” for him having been one of the “fiercest” fighters against the Islamic State’s Khorasan Province (ISKP), particularly in Nangarhar, where Rahbar was apparently responsible for killing some muhajireen (lit. “emigrants”, foreign fighters), and also in Kunar. These anti-ISKP operations were initiated by the Taliban “years ago” in collaboration with NATO, according to Al-Naba.
Second, on page 10, Al-Naba celebrates five separate operations by ISKP in Afghanistan.
Al-Naba 283 says that on Sunday, 18 April, ISKP killed a member of the Afghan security forces and severely wounded another in District Eight of Jalalabad by detonating an improvised explosive device (IED) under their car. Another IED in the same city, on the same day, targeting the car of an Afghan parliamentarian, allegedly killed two people and wounded three.
On 19 April, according to Al-Naba, ISKP murdered an officer of the Afghan security forces in District Four of Jalalabad in a targeted assassination using automatic weapons, and, in a separate operation in a separate area of the city on the same day, struck down another member of the security forces in an assassination using pistols.
Finally, on 20 April, Al-Naba claims that ISKP ambushed a vehicle carrying a number of “mushrikeen” (idolaters, polytheists), by which they mean Shi’is, elsewhere referred to by the derogatory term “rafida”, as they travelled on the road to Ghor. Four people were killed, including a government official, in this sectarian attack.