On January 7, 2015 Cherif and Said Kouachi, whose ties to the French jihadi scene extend for a decade, made history by storming the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris, France, and massacring many of those they found inside. The two brothers’ attack may have inaugurated a new era, wedding operations carried out with available tools to high-visibility civilian targets in the West.
On May 3, the Twitter account of “Shariah is Light”—later revealed to be an Arizona man and subject of terror investigations, Elton Simpson—would hint at responsibility for an upcoming terror attack in Garland, Texas and claim allegiance to IS on behalf of himself and the other attacker:
A recent Guardian report states that the head of the Islamic State (IS), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was seriously injured in an air strike by the US-led coalition in Iraq. A more detailed report from Newsweek suggests that Baghdadi has been incapacitated—at least temporarily—and is currently unable to lead IS. An Iraqi expert on IS says that a new leader, Abu ‘Ala al-‘Afri, who trained in Afghanistan and who seems to be open to working with al-Qaeda (AQ), has taken over the day-to-day running of the group.
The mercury level of the national violence continues to rise in Libya, with a constantly growing number of significant armed political groups coming to prominence. Two rival national governments continue to claim legitimacy: one in Tobruk (the duly elected Council of Deputies) and one in Tripoli (the non-elected New General Congress, a self-proclaimed continuation of the previous General Congress elected in 2012 that agreed to dissolve itself after the June 2014 elections).
For several months, I have been writing about signs of cooperation—generally on a local level—between al-Qaeda (AQ) groups and others that have sworn fealty to the Islamic State (IS). It might seem counterintuitive that the two, which have accused each other of assassinating leaders, engaged in a very public mutual disowning, and fought each other openly in some areas, would work together at all. But there is growing evidence of localized convergences between the two organizations, especially in Lebanon, Syria, and Tunisia. Whether this will turn into something more comprehensive is unclear.