Ramadan in Progress: IS Expands Global Presence

The Islamic State (IS) promotes the month of Ramadan as a time of increased spiritual rewards for terror attacks, asserting that its followers should "yearn for martyrdom" during this time. The group and its supporters thus reserve attacks, military advances, announcements, and leadership speeches for this time, making Ramadan a month of high safety and stability concerns in various regions.

Therefore, SITE is providing a complimentary report on IS activity during Ramadan 2017 as of June 15, as well as the weeks leading up to it, with information taken from SITE's weekly inSITE reports on the Islamic State.

Periodic inSITE reports provide comprehensive macro–analyses of extremist groups based on official communiques, online chatter, media reports, and existing SITE research. If you would like to subscribe to inSITE on the Islamic State or other reports, please contact us at subscription@siteintelgroup.org. To view this week’s report, click here.

 

More than half-way through this year’s Ramadan, which spans May 26-June 24 in entirety, IS has claimed credit for deadly attacks while amplifying its military presence in various points around the globe.

As IS holds onto its last remaining vestiges in Mosul, its de facto capital in Iraq, and prepares for an impending offensive on Raqqah, its de facto capital in Syria, it has managed to make achievements on other battlefronts outside of the two countries. Most notable of these achievements include an uptick of attacks in the Khorasan region, and its siege on Marawi City in the Philippines.

The group has, furthermore, claimed terrorist attacks against police and civilians in several nations. These attacks have notably included a June 3 vehicular and stabbing attack in London (carried out less than two weeks after the May 22 Manchester attack), and the group’s first-ever claimed attack in Iran.

IS statements and media have pushed for further violence. Echoing slain spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani’s call to strike “in the heart of the lands of the Crusaders” during Ramadan in a speech released on May 21 of last year, current spokesman Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir called for the same in a speech released on June 12, 2017. Pushing for lone wolf attacks, he exclaimed:

And to the brothers of creed and faith in Europe, America, Russia, and Australia and elsewhere! Your brothers in your land preceded you, so do as they did and follow their actions. Know that Paradise is under the shade of the swords.

SITE Director Rita Katz tweeted about the fitting timing of Abu al-Hassan's speech:

The following SITE infographic shows notable attacks claimed by IS outside of Iraq and Syria during Ramadan (as of June 15), as well as the weeks leading into it.

This activity puts IS on track to make a comparable—and in many ways increased—amount of damage across the globe as was made during last year’s Ramadan, which included claims of activity in at least 16 countries.

East Asia

IS activity in the Philippines remains concentrated on the southern island of Mindanao, where IS militants launched a siege on Marawi City. The siege, which began on May 23, spilled into Ramadan and persists.

On June 12, 2017, IS’ ‘Amaq News Agency released a video reporting on the siege, showing footage of clashes and claiming that the Filipino military had lost “no less than 200 soldiers” since the siege began.

IS operatives and supporters have also provided ongoing updates on the siege, including pictures, video commentary, and incitements for more attacks elsewhere in the Philippines.

IS also claimed an attack at Resorts World Manila, in the Pasay area of the Philippine capital, on June 2. According to IS’ official communique, the attacker—identified by the nom de guerre “Abu al-Khayr al-Arkhabili”—opened fire on resort patrons using an automatic weapon, continuing until he was killed.

Issue 10 of IS’ Rumiyah magazine commented on these developments in the region, with its cover thematically reading, “The Jihad in East Asia.” The issue featured an interview with Abu ‘Abdillah al-Muhajir, identified as the “amir [leader] of the soldiers of the Khilafah in East Asia.” In the interview, he asserted that IS fighters there “continue to increase in numbers and weapons,” and assured that entryways are available to prospective migrant fighters: “…we continue to receive muhajirin [migrants], and we welcome them. There are several safe paths and ways to achieve that…”

IS Claims Attacks in the West

In its Bayan News Bulletin for June 5, IS featured its claim for the June 3 vehicular and stabbing attack in London, less than two weeks after the group had claimed responsibility for the May 22 attack at a concert in Manchester.

On the same day, IS’ ‘Amaq News Agency reported that a June 4 shooting attack in the Brighton suburb of Melbourne, Australia was carried out by a “soldier of the IS.” The attacker was reported to have killed one man and wounded three police officers before being shot and killed.

Other Notable Global Operations

Aside from high-profile attacks in the Philippines and aforementioned Western cities, IS claimed notable operations in various countries, including Iran and Egypt.

Iran: On June 7, IS claimed credit for a five-man suicide raid in the Iranian capital of Tehran, marking its first attack in the country. Along with claims of responsibility, IS released videos of attackers, and an infographic touting 60 killed and wounded.

Afghanistan: IS activity in Afghanistan remains concentrated in Nangarhar in eastern Afghanistan. On June 1, IS claimed an attack on the military airport checkpoint in Jalalabad, the capital city of Nangarhar. IS’ official communique stated that the attacker, “Mu’adh al-Khorasani,” had detonated a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) at the checkpoint, killing 7 members of Afghan security forces.

In Kabul, the group claimed responsibility for an attack on the Shi’a al-Zahra mosque in Kabul via its ‘Amaq News Agency. The attack followed a May 3 IS-claimed suicide attack in Kabul, for which IS claimed that the attacker detonated a VBIED amidst an American military patrol, in close proximity to the American embassy in Kabul, killing eight American soldiers

Egypt: IS claimed an attack against Coptic Christians in the Egyptian city of Minya on May 27, reporting that the attack had killed 31 “Crusaders,” while wounding an additional 24. Located approximately 150 miles south of Cairo, the attack location is notably distant from IS’ strongholds in Sinai.

The following table documents IS’ claimed activity between May 26 and June 15.

This article has been updated to reflect IS-reported activity as of June 15; the original posting showed activity as of June 9.

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