Islamic State Advertises its Afghan Escalation and Holding Territory in Africa

By Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) on 29 May 2021

Al-Naba 288, front page

The Islamic State (IS) released the 288th edition of Al-Naba yesterday, and amid the commonplace items—insurgent reports from Iraq and Syria, Egypt and Africa, its main editorial and the ideological essay(s)—the two items on its front page were most interesting. The top item was a series of reports from Afghanistan about the ongoing progress of IS as NATO draws down. The second item down was from Nigeria, about the imposition of zakat, the tax for the needy, which had some suggestive details about IS’s procurement of territory in Africa.


The killing and wounding of twenty-one Afghan police and “intelligence [agency] spies” (juwasees al-istikhbarat) through “bombings and assassinations in Khorasan” is advertised by Al-Naba 288 as the top story on its front page, and the top half of page four is given to the story. Nearly all of these were in Jalalabad.

On 19 May, Al-Naba says that its operatives from Islamic State’s Khorasan Province (ISKP) struck down “two members of the apostate police … with pistol shots … and seized their rifles” in the Surkh-Rod area of Jalalabad. In “the same city”, on the same day, an improvised explosive device (IED) was detonated against a police vehicle, killing one and injuring three, and “another bomb on a second police vehicle” on 25 May “damaged [the vehicle] and injured four officers on board”.[1]

ISKP killed “a spy for the apostate Afghan intelligence [agency]” by detonating a sticky bomb attached to his car in Jalalabad on 20 May. Al-Naba seems quite pleased that ISKP also destroyed his car by burning it. A second “spy” was liquidated by ISKP in the town of Bisht in Kunar province on 22 May, killed with pistol fire.

A roadside bomb set by ISKP against a vehicle in Jalalabad carrying members of Afghan intelligence agency on 24 May is said by Al-Naba to have killed six people and wounded three.


Al-Naba, page 9

Page nine of Al-Naba 288 is given over to a kind of summary interview with the emir of the Zakat Department of IS’s “West Africa Province” (Wilayat Gharb Ifriqiya) or ISWAP, based on his “discussion” with Al-Naba. Though the scale of what the emir is talking about is reasonably small, it is quite clear that in areas of the countryside in north-east Nigeria, among the nomads and the farmers, ISWAP has established itself as a de facto governing authority, able to collect (extort, if you prefer) and distribute taxes.

The unnamed emir is reporting on events over the last two months, the Islamic months of Shaban and Ramadan (mid-March to mid-May 2021). The emir reports that even amidst ISWAP’s war with the “armies of disbelief in Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon and their apostate militias” it has found time to care for the poor by imposing proper Islamic law. The emir says these people are under the “protection of the Islamic State”, albeit it is really “their Lord … [who] has imposed … zakat”, which makes ISWAP’s harvesting of people’s resources entirely different to the taxes collected in the “infidel capitalist economic system”, where the participant states allow awful levels of inequality—vast poverty, even as a small elite stores obscene amounts of money in banks.

ISWAP has, instead, established this “pillar” of the religion (zakat) so the poor are cared for, says Al-Naba. There are, according to Al-Naba, four teams of collectors, who go out each month to the rich and the farmers, both of livestock and crops, to assess whether their “wealth has reached the threshold (nisab)” and this investigation then determines how much money they have to give up so that it can be redistributed to the poor.

The emir says that the collection of zakat begins by its collectors going out and “calling the rich to God’s law and teaching them the jurisprudence of zakat and the obligation to pay it, and the punishment for those who refuse, in this world and the hereafter”. In general, says the emir, people’s “hearts have been open to this [act of] great worship”. A sceptic might wonder if the guns and murderous intent of ISWAP have anything to do with the general compliance, but Al-Naba notes only some minor displeasure among nomadic shepherds. And the zakat emir reiterates his assurance to one and all that what might appear as brigandage is a commandment from God, and thus incomparable to taxes on wealth by non-Islamic states.

The emir says that in the two months under discussion, ISWAP “collected [resources]… in the area of Buhayra of three types: cattle, crops, and cash, which amounted to 51,865,000 naira [Nigerian currency], equivalent to $156,985, of which approximately 80% was livestock and 20% was crops and money, because the agricultural harvest is very small at the time of drought each year”.

In logistical terms, the money collected is distributed “through the Zakat Banking Authority (Hay’at Masaraf al-Zakat), which records and enumerates the names of Muslims who are eligible for zakat, and then distributes the money to them. [The emir] stressed that while the Authority prioritises the registration of the poor, it does not neglect other [worthy] recipients of alms [i.e. charity].”

For Ramadan alone, says the emir, the zakat distributed “amounted to 3,420,000 naira, which is equivalent to 8,800 dollars”, plus “825 food parcels … [and] 353 packets of clothes for Muslim orphans and children”. The emir notes that IS sent out pictures of this Ramadan zakat distribution.

The article concludes with the emir bringing some “good news” for Muslims,[2] namely that ISWAP’s zakat offices will be spreading out in West Africa as the jihadists make further advances, and some advice, to give willingly what God demands of them so that they do not sacrifice the rewards by requiring it to be taken involuntarily.


The main editorial on page three, “Servants of the Idolatrous Rulers” (Khaddam al-Tawagheet), says the Arab governments are cloaking their rule in the religion by employing legions of scholars and clerics who justify their claims, and “the danger of these pretenders to Islam is greater than the danger from their tawagheet masters”, since they are guiding the faith itself away from truth in the manner that Satan does, as described in the Qur’an. Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Sisi’s Egypt—they all “follow the path that the Jews and the Christians set for them”, says Al-Naba, but the symbiotic relationship between the regimes and the clerics persists, the one getting legitimacy and the other getting money for their endowments, neither with any concern for the shari’a. The United Arab Emirates is then added as a state where the rulers conceal the true nature Islam and barely disguise the fact. Al-Naba somewhat unsurprisingly concludes that God will set right this situation with the impious tyrants and the “evil scholars”.[3]

IS in Nigeria or Niger, Al-Naba, p. 5

The rest of page four is given over to reports on IS’s guerrilla activity in the Congo. Page five has a prominent report from eastern Syria, where IS continues its war with the PKK—this is the third story down on the front page—and there is another story about anti-PKK operations on page seven. The bottom half of page five is attacks in Niger and Nigeria. Pages six to eight consist of reports of bombings and assassinations and other terror-insurgent activity almost wholly from Iraq, with one notice from Egypt. Notably, the Iraq reports are given more space—and have pictures—which is in contrast to particularly last week, where they were nearly all crammed onto half of one page.

Page ten has ideological advice on the escalating punishments for those who break the covenant with God and refuse to come back to the Qur’an even after instruction in their error; this is directed particularly at those who have come away from the “Arab spring” with blasphemous notions about democracy, elected parliaments, and the rest of it. The ideological essay on page eleven is drawn from Imam Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali (d. 1393).


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[1] The word translated here as “officers” is “anasar” (عناصر), which literally means “elements”.

[2] The word used for “good news” is “bushra”, which can also be rendered as “glad tidings”. Different roots but the same connotation is the “gospel” for Christians, a word derived from the Latin evangelium and the Greek euangelion, which mean “good news” and are clearly also the root words of “evangelical”, the notion that this gospel (good news) should be spread.

[3] The exact phrase used is “ulema al-suw” (علماء السوء).

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