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Friday, March 20, 2015

Intelwire Weekly Brief, 3/20/2015 -- ISIS in Yemen, Tunisia, Afghanistan


ISIS has claimed a quadruple suicide bombing of two mosques in Sana'a, Yemen, following hard on the heels of its claim to the Bardo Museum attack in Tunisia. Both reports appear to be authentically issued by ISIS, based on their distribution by known official ISIS disseminators online, but there is a chance, probably small, that they are falsely claiming these incidents.

The gunmen in the latter attack reportedly trained in Libya, where ISIS has several significant strongholds. As ISIS's insurgency in Iraq comes under increasing pressure (though that initiative far from a fait accompli and introduces new and significant problems), it is compensating by flexing its terrorist muscles abroad.

In many ways, this can be seen as similar to the way al Qaeda metastasized after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, with notable differences. Importantly, it's happening much, much faster. In part, this is because ISIS is much stronger now than al Qaeda was in 2001, but it is also taking advantage of the groundwork laid by al Qaeda as it spread out geographically in response to U.S. military pressure. Additionally, ISIS is more centrally controlled, and it is strategically inclined toward swift and highly visible action, compared to al Qaeda's emphasis on stealth and long planning cycles.

More on all of this in the week to come.


CTC Sentinel: Baya'a Special Issue
As the events above suggests, one of the most important issues in terrorism today is the mounting shift of allegiances from al Qaeda to ISIS. The Sentinel journal, published by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, has devoted an entire issue to these questions, and it's important reading for everyone covering terrorism today. Of particular interest is Don Rassler's article on ISIS's new fronts in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the very heart of al Qaeda territory. It's early days yet, but ISIS's relatively strong entry raises the question: If AQ can't hold Af-Pak, what can it hold?

-- J.M. Berger


J.M. Berger and Jonathon Morgan discussed the ISIS Twitter Census at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, this week. Read the full report here.


ISIS: The State of Terror, the new book by Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger, is on sale now in bookstores and on Kindle. The London Evening Standard calls it "timely and important history of a movement that now defines the 21st century." CNN's Peter Bergen says "Stern and Berger write clearly and persuasively and marshal impressive primary research from ISIS's prodigious propaganda to explain how ISIS became the dominant jihadi group today. It's a terrific and important read." Buy it now and learn about the growing challenge ISIS presents to the world.


The Hidden Enemy In Iraq
The forces fighting ISIS in Iraq have been struggling with the vast number of IEDs the militant group is leaving in its wake.

Air Force Veteran Charged With Trying to Join the Islamic State
A federal grand jury in New York has indicted U.S. Air Force veteran Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh on charges that he conspired to join the Islamic State, the latest in a growing line of Americans being nabbed trying to fight alongside the extremist group.

Nigeria says it has ousted Boko Haram from town of Bama
Nigeria's military says it has retaken the north-eastern town of Bama from the Islamist military group Boko Haram.

British police free alleged teen ISIS recruits, arrest 18-year-old
British police, under pressure to stem the flow of would-be militants eager to join the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), on Monday arrested an 18-year-old man suspected of planning to travel to Syria. Hours earlier, they freed on bail three other U.K. teens detained in Turkey, allegedly on their way to link up with the extremist group.


Tunisia’s Grand Compromise Faces its Biggest Test
In this Q&A, Crisis Group’s Tunisia Senior Analyst Michaël Béchir Ayari discusses the political fallout of the 18 March attack on Tunis’s Bardo Museum which killed 23 people, mostly tourists.

Afghan Militia Leaders, Empowered by U.S. to Fight Taliban, Inspire Fear in Villages
Scattered across Afghanistan, militia leaders are a significant part of the legacy of the American war here, brought to power amid a Special Operations counterinsurgency strategy that mobilized anti-Taliban militias in areas beyond the grasp of the Afghan Army.

Syrian Activists Say Chlorine Gas Attack Kills 6 in Idlib Province
Anti-government activists in Syria said Tuesday that a chlorine bomb attack by government forces on a northwestern village overnight had killed six people and filled clinics with choking victims.

Christians riot in Pakistan after attacks targeting churches kill 14
Members of the Christian community rampaged through the streets of Lahore on Sunday after suicide bombers attacked two churches during morning services, killing at least 14 people and wounding more than 70.

Tattooed Neo-Nazi Named As Suspect In Deadly Arizona Shooting Spree
The man believed to have gone on a deadly shooting spree Wednesday in Mesa, Arizona has a criminal record and purported ties to neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups.

Manila: U.S. had key role in deadly counterterrorism raid in Philippines
U.S. counterterrorism personnel played a hidden but key role in a bungled commando operation in the Philippines that resulted in dozens of deaths and a political scandal, according to a government investigation released Tuesday in Manila.

Pentagon loses track of $500 million in weapons, equipment given to Yemen
The Pentagon is unable to account for more than $500 million in U.S. military aid given to Yemen, amid fears that the weaponry, aircraft and equipment is at risk of being seized by Iranian-backed rebels or al-Qaeda, according to U.S. officials.

-- By INTELWIRE Staff 

Buy the new book ISIS: The State of Terror by Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger.

Buy J.M. Berger's seminal book on American jihadists, Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam


Views expressed on INTELWIRE are those of the author alone.



Tweets referencing this post:



", granular analysis..."

ISIS: The State of Terror
"Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger's new book, "ISIS," should be required reading for every politician and policymaker... Their smart, granular analysis is a bracing antidote to both facile dismissals and wild exaggerations... a nuanced and readable account of the ideological and organizational origins of the group." -- Washington Post

More on ISIS: The State of Terror

"...a timely warning..."

Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam:
"At a time when some politicians and pundits blur the line between Islam and terrorism, Berger, who knows this subject far better than the demagogues, sharply cautions against vilifying Muslim Americans. ... It is a timely warning from an expert who has not lost his perspective." -- New York Times

More on Jihad Joe


INTELWIRE is a web site edited by J.M. Berger. a researcher, analyst and consultant covering extremism, with a special focus on extremist activities in the U.S. and extremist use of social media. He is a non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution, Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, and author of the critically acclaimed Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, the only definitive history of the U.S. jihadist movement, and co-author of ISIS: The State of Terror with Jessica Stern.


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