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The “dirty bomb” issue and the jihadist strategy in Europe

Giancarlo Elia Valori

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On November 30, 2015 the Belgian police discovered a film regarding the movements of a Belgian nuclear researcher and his family who operated in Dohel-1, one of the seven nuclear production sites in that country, four in the Dohel region and three in the Tihange region.

The long film of all the nuclear expert’s movements was found in the Auvelais house of a man linked to the network of Al Baghdadi’s Caliphate. The jihadists were interested not so much in the nuclear plant as such, but in the possibility of using radioisotopes, namely products capable of causing poisonings, diseases, various temporary or permanent disorders in those who come into contact with them for a certain period of time.Radioisotopes, also known as radionuclides, are unstable nuclei which radioactively decay, resulting in the emission of nuclear radiations. As already said, the effects may be scarcely or highly significant, depending on the dose of radiations received and/or the type of emissions absorbed.

The α radiations carry two positive charges and can be stopped by a thin aluminium foil. They strongly ionize gases (hence air) but, if produced by a source inside the human body (water, contaminated food), they can cause very severe damage.The β radiations have a negative charge only and are more penetrating than the α ones, but they ionize gases to a lesser extent.They have a greater power to penetrate the human body than α radiations, but these emissions, too, can become dangerous when given off by a source inside the human body.On the contrary the γ radiations have no electric charge but have an undulatory nature, such as electric waves.

The latter have a very high power of penetrating the human body and can cross relevant thick layers of lead and other metals.They are a hundred times more penetrating than the β radiations and are, in effect, electromagnetic wave emissions.All radioisotopes are widely used in medicine, biology, pharmacology (the “radiopharmaceuticals”), archaeology and paleontology.Not to mention industrial applications: the lasers which use the radioisotope emissions are now fundamental in telecommunications, through the “fibre optics” technology.Even the common CD players use these lasers, which are also used for cutting some metal sheets in the manufacturing industry.In all likelihood, the jihadists stationed in Belgium wanted to kidnap that nuclear expert or a member of his family so as to force him to make one or more “dirty bombs”.Here the technological issue turns into a strategic and political issue.

A team of experts is needed to make a dirty bomb, but we cannot rule out that a single “lone wolf” may be able to make it alone, with few recycled materials and using the usual homemade explosives which now characterize most of the blasts occurred so far in Europe due to the sword jihad.You only need saltpetre, sugar or normal gunpowder, which can be easily made at home.It is worth clarifying that the jihad does not want to conquer our territory, but it wants to fully subjugate it, particularly at political and cultural levels.For the jihadists, a “dirty” bomb” has the same value as a cyber attack or a demonstration against miniskirts or halal food in public schools.The important factor is intimidation, leading to hegemony and finally to dominance.This means that, at geopolitical, economic, cultural and demographic levels, the jihadist militants want to make their fight fully functional to the primary interests of the umma, namely the Islamic global community.

The strategic goal is the cultural and economic submission and subjugation of our territories to Islam, possibly with some mass conversion.

The fear, terror and social dissociation caused by the terrorist actions carried out by the men (and women) of Daesh/Isis are aimed at weakening the reactions of the “infidel”.The attacks also serve to increase the costs of our defence, up to making them economically unsustainable and finally blocking the European society so as to freeze it until the final “submission”, just to borrow the title of a smart and successful book by Michel Houellebecq.Therefore it is a long-term warfare, with strong elements of traditional war combined with a real psywar, “psychological warfare.”These actions relate to the management of the good side, the good cop, of integration up to beyond the limits allowed by our social system – which implies cultural and mental-mythical submission and subjugation – and the harsh side, the bad cop, the brutal violence of the recent massacres in Paris and Brussels.Hence a mechanism “if …. then” sets in into the victims’ minds, namely us, whereby we start to think that if we are good and keep quiet and we adapt without saying a word they will not do us harm any more.

This is not true: if we are good and keep quiet, we will be subjugated even more cruelly.Needless to explain this to current politicians in Italy and Europe; they are just canvassers and salesmen in search for foreign capital, possibly from the countries which have always funded the jihad.There are also important socio-economic factors in this psywar using all the elements of our non-orthodox warfare techniques.Again needless to explain these techniques to the above stated canvassers and salesmen who, unfortunately, have also “polluted” the intelligence services.

Firstly, there is the plan already made explicit by Osama Bin Laden to hit the West – the inevitable advocate, for economic and energy reasons, of the “apostate” regimes of Islam and the Jewish State – with a war which is very cheap for the jihad that wages it, but costs a lot, even too much, to those who must defend themselves from it.Compared to the relatively scarce funds needed for the attacks of September 9, 2001, Osama Bin Laden and his Al Qaeda cost over three billion dollars in fifteen years, including the costs of wars, new security and safety standards and part of the covert operations necessary for finding and killing him.Not to mention the still high costs for supporting about 150,000 military staff and one quarter more of the normal US military budget.The jihad started by Bin Laden – a wealthy “daddy’s boy” who became radicalized at the university in Saudi Arabia, as a result of his contacts with a professor linked to the Muslim Brotherhood – is an asymmetrical war of the poor against us, the would-be “rich”.

Hence the jihadists are used as proxy warriors by the rich Muslim countries to progressively impoverish the West, make it suitable for diversified and profitable investment by the OPEC Sunni area and finally create not only an economic, but also a political dependence on the Middle East oil and gas.The terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels, not to mention the now sadly neglected affair of mass rapes in Cologne, are the beginning of a new phase of this non-orthodox Islam war in Europe and other continents.Before Al Baghdadi’s Caliphate – which has created the territorial entity needed to the global jihad, for political mythology and as a military base – Mohammed Badie, the former Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and later leader of the Ikhwan International, had explicitly stated: “There is no need for the sword jihad in Europe, we will conquer it only with our growing population”.

The transition from the old to the new jihad, which came to maturity with the establishment of the Daesh-Isis Caliphate, has already changed this Islamist strategic project on Europe.This is exactly the reason why we must be very careful with nuclear “dirty bombs” that will certainly reach their political goal (which is what matters), regardless of their actual potential for nucleotide radiation.Fear is a mechanism which now increases also with small doses of violence.It is hard to estimate how many sites exist today in the world where radionuclides are produced and stored, but the best statistics now available point to over 70,000 storage systems placed in at least 13,000 facilities.The brutality of the attacks and the size of the widespread jihadist network discovered so far in Belgium may be explained by the fact that this country is one of the major world producers of radionuclides and there is at least one researcher of Islamic origin and faith who works in this facility, as we will see shortly.It is the nuclear complex called SK-CEN, a nuclear research centre located near the Bocholt-Herentals Canal, 53 miles away from Brussels.It no longer receives the periodical shipments of radioactive material from the United States, which in 2004 had reported the poor defence structures of the Belgian system in view of a possible attack by Al Qaeda.

Not to mention the fact that the two fake journalists who killed the anti-Taliban Afghan leader, Ahmad Shah Massoud, two days before the September 11 attack came from Molenbeek, the neighbourhood which hosted and still partially hosts the Caliphate’s jihadists who carried out the massacres in Paris and Brussels.In 2003 there had been reports of an attempt by one of the Belgian soccer star, Nizar Trabelsi, to put a bomb in the military area of Kleine Brogel, 18 miles away from the aforementioned nuclear research centre, a base hosting twenty US tactical nuclear weapons related to a F-16 squadron.

The base safety and security structures were later deactivated in 2010, even by a group of peace activists, who run about the military structure undisturbed for over two hours.Only in 2014, and after the renovations made by the Belgian government upon US request, did IAEA confirm that the safety and security net in SK-CEN and the nearby military base were effective and robust.It is worth noting that the Belgian nuclear plants supply over 50% of electricity in that country. Is this series of   terrorist actions possibly designed to force Belgium to supply itself only with the Middle East oil and gas?In Italy, the disastrous decision to relinquish civilian nuclear energy was taken with a richly-funded referendum in June 2011, after the equally richly-funded one in 1987, cunningly held shortly after the disaster occurred at the Chernobyl power plant.No one better than the peoples who are not strategically Clausewitzian knows how to better use “psychological warfare” than Muslims.They do not believe that the war obeys strict, Kantian rules, but they think that the war confrontation is always the essence of politics, not its “polarization of extremes”.Hence there will probably be no need for terrorist actions in Italy: in this sector we have already simulated and achieved the effects of a jihad attack on our own.

Furthermore, the Belgian power plants have recently been the target of a series of accidents which have endangered the city of Antwerp, geographically close to the SK-CEN centre, and Germany has repeatedly called into question the technical and strategic safety and security nets of the Belgian nuclear system.

It is worth noting that Ilyass Boughalab, a Moroccan expert linked to the old information network, though still operational but today silent, known as Sharia4Belgium, works in Dohel-1.Today, globally, the components (and not the finished products of the radioisotopes, about which we have already spoken) are found in approximately 3,500 sites located in 110 countries.

In Iraq, Al Baghdadi’s Caliphate has already reached the nuclear sites of the former regime of Saddam Hussein and is supposed to already have such a quantity of radioactive material as to build a “dirty” bomb which could “infect” a small city, thus making it uninhabitable (and this is the tactical goal pursued).Moreover, the IAEA countries adhering to the international safety and security net for the storage and use of radioactive materials are only 23, accounting for 14% of the total 168 IAEA members.

Statistically, in 2013 and 2014, at least 325 nuclear accidents were reported officially in the IAEA databases, with heavy losses of radioactive materials.85% of those accidents regarded non-nuclear radioactive material – hence nucleotides.According to the most reliable estimates, the non-reported accidents are supposed to be over 753 in the two-year period under consideration, already used as statistical basis.Conversely, highly enriched uranium (HEU) is stored in sites located in 25 countries while, as already seen, the radioactive substances are much more widespread.Moreover, “dirty bombs” certainly cause less damage than nuclear ones, but they can cost a huge amount of money for “cleaning up” the area, as well as for displacing and protecting the population.According to the rule of asymmetric economic war started by Bin Laden and today continued by Al Baghdadi’s Caliphate, this is exactly what is needed.

“Dirty bombs” have been called weapons of mass disruption and not weapons of mass destruction.

This is the reason why they are suited to reach two goals at the same time: the psycho-political crushing of the enemy, namely us, as well as the increase in costs for defending ourselves from the jihad – costs which could force some European governments (the aforementioned canvassers and salesmen) into a strategic or anyway political surrender.Not to mention the area interdiction which could be generated by a radiological dispersal device (RDD) so as to later act undisturbed, with traditional terrorism, in areas close to those hit by the dirty bomb.Technically, the most easily available and used radionuclides among the 16 theoretically available include Cobalt-60, with a half-life of 5.3 years, which appears as a hard metal. It is used for anti-cancer therapies.They also include Cesium-137, with a half-life of 30.1 years, which appears as powder salt and is used for blood transfusions in specific therapies.The same holds true for Iridium-192, which appears as a metal and is still used for X-rays.

Finally they include Americium-124 and Beryllium, with a half-life of 432.2 years, showing the consistence of a metal oxide and mainly used for stratigraphic analysis in geology and archaeology.

Out of the total number of nations adhering to the IAEA rules for radionuclides, only 19 have a specific strategy to monitor or recover the illegally extorted material; 8 of them are developing a procedure for notifying neighbouring countries of any illegal release or transfer of radioactive material, while the others are studying new safer storage and monitoring systems.The Code of Conduct currently in force for all the countries adhering to the special IAEA system for radionuclides is inevitably vague and full of “shortcomings” at procedural and penalty levels.Moreover only 130 IAEA countries have accepted the Code of Conduct.So far many thefts of radioactive material have occurred, apart from those carried out by the so-called Syrian-Iraqi Caliphate (two, as far as we know).In 1993, the Russian mafia placed small pieces of radioactive material in the office of a Russian businessman, causing him to die in a few minutes.In 1995, the jihadist Chechen rebels buried a container full of Cesium-137 in Moscow’s Ismailovsky Park.

The terrorists let the police know where it was before it could cause too much damage.In 1998, 19 tubes containing Cesium-137 were stolen from a hospital in Greensboro, North Carolina.Again in 1998, the secret services of the pro-Russian Chechen government discovered a container hidden under a railroad, already connected to an explosive ignition device.Others thefts were recorded, often not even reported by “open sources”.Hence, on the basis of logical inferences, how many Chechens are hosted as foreign fighters by Daesh/Isis? A number ranging between 200 and 700 – an amount exceeded only by militants from Afghanistan, Bosnia and Somalia.Just to make an example of costs and damage which may be caused, a dirty bomb charged with an average quantity of Cesium-137 could “pollute” and contaminate 250 square meters at a certain minimum cost of decontamination/ repopulation equal to over 81 billion euro, obviously depending on the infrastructure existing in the RDD detonation area.

Hence what must be done to prevent “dirty bomb” attacks?

Meanwhile, many specific sensors can be placed and monitored often and very carefully in “sensitive” facilities and densely populated areas.As already happened in the United States, a government committee should select a number of critical points for RDD attacks and then proceed to the ongoing computerized monitoring of the most important sites which may be targeted by a jihad attack.This holds true also for parks, cities’ central areas, schools and universities, but this shall be decided by the relevant committee, when it is established.Furthermore we shall also significantly improve the storage and destruction, after use, of such materials, coming from hospitals, research centres or other structures – a practice to be certified and be entrusted to the police, not to garbage collectors.How many sites of radionuclide production or storage are there in Italy?A huge amount: suffice to list – and it would be virtually impossible – all the hospitals, private radiology medical centres, as well as biological, archaeological, physical, chemical and paleontological research centres.Radioactive waste and, in any case, the waste coming directly from nuclear power plants, have the size of 30,000 square metres, for a quantity of waste produced over 30 years.Less than a quarter of France and less than a sixth of Germany.

In Italy approximately 140,000 tons of special waste, including radionuclides, are produced every year, while hazardous waste (including some specific radionuclides) has a size of 9 tons/year.In Italy the management of such radioactive waste, mainly coming from hospitals, is currently regulated by Article 4 of Legislative Decree No. 230/95.The legislation governs the management of such waste, but mainly defines stringent criteria for notifications, requirements and regulations, also in the event of a transfer of such waste abroad.Even with the very dangerous rule of tacit consent.Hence is the registration of radionuclide transport companies with the Ministry sufficient?We do not think so, particularly because said waste thefts occur precisely during transfers and by staff who may not be registered with the relevant Authority.

Article 17 of EU Directive 2006/EURATOM, transposed in Italy in 2007, envisages specific criminal offences for those who abandon or carry out illicit trafficking of radioactive materials in addition to mandatory confiscation of the material seized – where possible.Better, but not enough, because there are no indications, apart from criminal penalties, specifically protecting from an RDD, of which we will never know the origin of the radionuclide used in the blast.Once again, little can be done, except for quick management and processing of information in the EU area and careful intelligence prevention on the radicalization of Islamic subjects from communities near the radionuclide production or storage sites.

The likelihood of an RDD explosion is statistically not measurable.

Nevertheless, it will be good to think about it in time.

Advisory Board Co-chair Honoris Causa Professor Giancarlo Elia Valori is an eminent Italian economist and businessman. He holds prestigious academic distinctions and national orders. Mr Valori has lectured on international affairs and economics at the world’s leading universities such as Peking University, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Yeshiva University in New York. He currently chairs "La Centrale Finanziaria Generale Spa", he is also the honorary president of Huawei Italy, economic adviser to the Chinese giant HNA Group and member of the Ayan-Holding Board. In 1992 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d'Honneur de la République Francaise, with this motivation: "A man who can see across borders to understand the world” and in 2002 he received the title of "Honorable" of the Académie des Sciences de l'Institut de France

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After a New Massacre, Charges That ISIS Is Operating With Assad and the Russians

Anne Speckhard, Ph.D

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Authors: Anne Speckhard, Ardian Shajkovci

On July 25 in the Syrian province of Sweida a massacre began in the early morning. Ten jihadists from the so-called Islamic State entered Sweida town. They wore the traditional baggy trousers and loose-fitting overgarments of Druze men, but beneath the clothes they had hidden explosive vests. Three detonated in the main vegetable market, then one of them accompanied the many injured to the hospital and set off his explosive charge there. The other six suicide bombers were overcome before they could detonate, according to senior officials in the Druze community.

At the same time, hundreds of ISIS fighters entered three nearby villages, moving house-by-house slitting throats and shooting to death men, women and children. Some reported that the killers left a witness from each family alive to tell their hideous story. In all, 273 Druze were killed and 220 injured, Druze officials told us.

They strongly suspect that the attack by ISIS was carried out in cooperation with the Russian-backed Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad, and this is corroborated to some extent by ISIS prisoners we have interviewed who are being held by U.S.-allied Kurdish forces here in northern Syria.  The Druse politicians and officials came here to try to forge an alliance with like-minded Kurds for mutual self-protection, which is when they told us the details of the massacre.

News of the atrocity has been reported internationally, but the story behind it still is not well understood.

The Druze are one of the smaller minorities in Syria, perhaps three percent of the population. But their reputation as fighters in the wars of the Levant goes back centuries.  Altogether, they number about a million adherents of a monotheistic, Abrahamic faith mingling elements of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, but also beliefs in reincarnation. Long persecuted for their beliefs, they keep their scriptures secret.

Their lands and their strongholds traditionally have been in the mountains of Syria and Lebanon, although some Druze are in Jordan and a large contingent are in Israel. Many live outside the region as well, and fit easily into the secular West. (Amal Clooney, for instance, is from an influential Druze family in Lebanon.) In Syria, the hills east and south of Damascus officially are known as Jabal al-Druze, the Druze mountain, and the communities that live there are very close-knit.

To this day, Druze fighters are well represented in the militaries of Lebanon and Israel, and until recently of Syria as well. But when the Syrian uprising of 2011 turned violent, Druze leaders decided to stay neutral in the conflict. They called those serving in the Syrian army to desert and return home. Druze officials we spoke to, who did not want to be quoted by name, claim to have their own militia of 53,000 – reservists, military deserters and young men whom they have trained – ready to defend their Syrian heartland.

As the ISIS massacres in the Sweida region began just after dawn, mysteriously, telephone land lines and electricity in the area had been cut off. But the news spread by cell phone, and well-armed Druze men came out in droves to defend their population. “The big battle started around noon and lasted until 8 p.m,” said one Druze official who joined the fight.

According to the Druze politicians we talked to, there were approximately 400 combatants from ISIS, or Daesh as they are called here, facing thousands of individually armed Druze who rose to fight — and who did not take prisoners.

“Currently 250 Daesh are dead,” one Druze official told us. “There are no injured [ISIS fighters]. We killed them all and more are killed every day in ongoing skirmishes in which the Daesh attackers continue to come from the desert to attack. Every day we discover the bodies of injured Daesh who died trying to withdraw. Due to the rugged terrain, Daesh could not retrieve them with their four-wheel-drives. We have no interest to bury them.”

Of 10 known ISIS captives taken during the fighting, three were hanged immediately.  Another was captured and hanged during skirmishes earlier this week. The Druze officials said that the Syrian authorities are demanding any surviving ISIS captives be turned over to them, but the Druze are refusing to do so.

The horror of the Sweida massacre in an area most considered safe—and in these last moments when ISIS rule in Syria appears to be all but over—was magnified when the Druze learned that some of their women and children had been taken captive by ISIS cadres. “Most of the Daesh attackers were killed,” a Druze official told us. “The only escapees were those who were kidnapped in the first village: 29 women, teenagers and babies.”

One 19-year-old student already has been beheaded by ISIS, which also quickly posted pictures of their Druze female captives and demanded that the Syrian regime stop attacking them and exchange ISIS prisoners held by the regime for these women and children.

In addition to the sensational pictures of the helpless women holding their hands above their heads in the desert, ISIS sent a video of one of their Druze captives, 35-year-old A Shalguinz, who delivered her baby in the desert.

“Daesh said they will make them sabaya [slaves] if the regime doesn’t’ give 100 prisoners to them and the regime refused,” one of our interlocutors told us.

People in the Middle East constantly speculate about the machinations of their governments and political parties, and rumors are taken seriously since verifiable facts often are hard or impossible to come by. But the Assad regime and ISIS at this moment have a coincidence of interests that is hard to mistake.

Assad currently is readying his troops and Russian- and Iranian-backed allies to attack the jihadist militants in Idlib, and the Druze leaders we talked to feel that their people were directly punished for not agreeing to join the Syrians in that operation.

Replaying the events that occurred prior to the slaughter and kidnapping, one Druze leader points out that about a week before the massacre, “Three Russian military officers came to the region to meet the political representatives of our area. They were meeting to create the 5th army in the region, exclusively for that region, so that all the young Druze who fled the Syrian Army and the Druze reservists are invited back.”

If the Druze have anything like as many as the 53,000 combatants they claim, obviously they could be hugely valuable to the regime’s army. But that was not going to happen.

“We don’t attack outside of our area. We only defend ourselves if necessary,” said the same official. “They came and said, ‘We’ll make the 5th battalion to protect the area. They can join the combat against al Nusra [al Qaeda linked jihadists] in Idlib,” he explained. “But the local representative answered them clearly, that they cannot join any Syrian Army to combat outside the mountain of the Druze, only defensive not offensive actions.”

Assad’s alleged complicity with ISIS is long, gruesome, and well documented. Recently he has had a policy of allowing armed militants to escape from cities in busses, ostensibly to reduce the risk of civilian casualties.

““It is known that Daesh militants in the suburbs of Damascus have been displaced to the east of Sweida in green buses by an agreement with the government: 1,400 Daesh were moved this way to the area east of Sweida and near the Tanf base of the Americans,” one of our Druze sources told us.

The U.S. garrison at al-Tanf sits on the strategic Baghdad-Damascus highway, located in Syria on the Iraqi border and within miles of the Jordanian border. This outpost has served as a launching point since 2016 for counter-ISIS operations including training for Syrian opposition factions fighting ISIS, al-Nusra and other jihadists.

“Adding to that, 1,000 combatants of Daesh came in a discreet way from the Yarmouk area [a Palestinian refugee camp in Damascus] to join the local Daesh, estimated at 2,000 to 3,000 combatants,” said one of the Druze officials who talked to us. “We know this by internal sources of the Syrian army. There are still some Druze of the army who leak this information to us.” In these transfers, ISIS fighters “have the right to take their individual Kalashnikov and three magazines. According to the government all of them came armed this way as the Syrian government gave them this safe passage to move to our area.”

“On the 24th of July most of the official checkpoints of the Syrian army around Sweida were withdrawn—all around the villages where the massacres occurred,” this Druze official told us. “They hit at 7 a.m., but at night something else was happening. Where the villages are—facing the Daesh area—the Syrian army withdrew the local weapons from the local protection militias. No one knew why. They also withdrew their checkpoint in the area and cut the electricity and local phone service. The regime was a spectator to the massacre.”

“We think there is complicity between Daesh and the regime,” another of the Druze leaders said. “It’s so obvious to us. The regime refused to send ambulances to assist the population. They cut the electricity as well and the local telephone service to make it difficult to communicate. They couldn’t cut the mobiles.”

One of the 10 captured ISIS attackers admits on an interrogation video shared by the Druze leaders that in the village massacres a man from the Syrian government guided them from house to house, knocking on the doors and calling the inhabitants by name so they would unwittingly open their doors to the ISIS attackers.

This is not the first time we have heard of such cynical and deadly complicity between the Assad regime and the ISIS terrorists it supposedly is fighting. We have interviewed, now, 91 men and women who defected from ISIS or were taken prisoner by the forces fighting it. They have told us that ISIS sold grain and oil to the Syrian government while in return they were supplied with electricity, and that the Syrians even sent in experts to help repair the oil facility in Deir ez Zour, a major city in southeast Syria, under ISIS protection. Early in the the revolution, Bashar al-Assad released al Qaeda operatives and other jihadists from his prison to make the case that he was fighting terrorists, not rebellious people hoping for democracy. One of those jihadists he released, known as Alabssi, was one of the ISIS leaders in the battle in Sweida.

In neighboring Iraq, ISIS has been declared militarily defeated since November 2017. President Donald Trump, in his state of the union speech in January this year, said, “I’m proud to report that the coalition to defeat ISIS has liberated very close to 100 percent of the territory just recently held by these killers in Iraq and in Syria.” But on the ground, U.S.-led coalition forces say that in the area patrolled by Americans and their close allies, around 1,000 ISIS militants are still at large. And an estimated 9,000 ISIS militants are still roaming free in Syria and Iraq. And in both places heinous attacks continue to occur.

Where did the fighters come from who carried out the massacre in Sweida? Ten ISIS fighters were captured and hundreds killed. According to our sources 83 ID cards were recovered. Most were Chechens, Palestinians from the Syrian camps, and some Saudis. There was a Moroccan and a Turkman among them, a Russian and a Libyan, as well as some Iraqis. Supposedly the brother of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, commanded the assault.

The Chechens who were slain were all wearing suicide vests—as usual, our source said. Those who attacked in the center of Sweida wore suicide vests, but so did the snipers using powerful rifles to shoot from distant rooftops. “That’s where most our casualties came from,” said one of the Druze officials. “It seems ISIS is alive and well despite international reports that they are defeated, or nearly defeated.”

One of the officials will only speak to us anonymously out of concern the attack can be repeated. “If they kidnap one, they will kidnap more,” he worries. Some 114 villages and small towns are around Sweida with half a million Druze living there.

The leaders of Druze mountain tell us that they are now also appealing to the international community to be protected by an international force, as the Kurdish area is protected by the Americans, and to assist them to bring back the kidnapped women to their families.

“To safeguard our community and to protect the diversity in the future of Syria, we need to create a crescent against aggressors,” said one of the politicians. Running from north to south, including parts of Iraq, it would protect the Kurds, the Yazidis, Christians, and Druze. “The minorities are looking to the Coalition as the only credible force in the area,” he said, adding, “The crescent strategically speaking would also cut the Iranians from access to the regime.”

The world must decide whether or not to respond, but the record thus far does not hold out much hope.

Author’s note: This piece first published at the Daily Beast

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The armed conflict between ISIS and al Qaeda has reached its climax

Uran Botobekov

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Al Qaeda-backed Central Asian jihadists

How Central Asian jihadists kill each other in Syria?

Exactly one year ago, on July 10, 2017, the Islamic state citadel of Mosul city was liberated and, as a result, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi solemnly announced that the Caliphate in Iraq had finally and irrevocably fallen.More than three months later, on October 17, 2017, the Kurdish combat units of the Syrian Democratic Forces, with the support of the aviation of the international anti-terrorist coalition led by the United States, drove out the Islamic State from the Syrian city of Raqqa.

But, as the terrorist attacks carried out by the supporters of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in July 2018 in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Canada showed, the Islamic state managed to regain its strength over the past year and further expanded the geography of its military operations. While victorious fanfares sounded, ISIS fighters successfully mastered the tactics of guerrilla warfare and deeply integrated into the Sunni population of the Middle East and Central Asia. Pinpoint terrorist strikes clearly indicate that the victory over the Islamic state is still far away and the jihadists are determined to take revenge. Today ISIS is conducting an intense offensive guerrilla war not only against Western countries and government regimes in the region but also against the Taliban and armed groups of alQaeda, who are its ideological rivals for leadership in the jihadist world.

In this brutal and intra-factional war between ISIS Islamist groups on the one hand, and al Qaeda and Taliban on the other hand, the jihadists of the Central Asia’s five countries, called the “Stans”, are actively participating.Islamists from the Fergana Valley, because of ideological confrontation, were divided into supporters of al-Baghdadi and Ayman al-Zawahiri and often commit terrorist acts against each other in Syria.

According to the Hayat Tahrir al Sham–affiliated information agency Ebaa, on July 9, 2018, an attack was carried out in Syria’s city Idlib against the amir’s house of the Central Asian terrorist group Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad Abu Saloh. As a result of the attack, his wife and four-year-old son were killed. The Uzbek jihadists’ leader himself was not injured. Security officer Hayat Tahrir al-Sham Anas al-Sheikh said that the house of Abu Saloh was attacked by an armed Khawarij (al Qaeda uses the term “Khawarij” as a synonym for ‘extremist’ to describe members of the ISIS), who was detained by the security forces of the city after hot pursuit.During the interrogation, a member of the Islamic state confessed to the crime. He was recruited by ISIS in Turkey. Later “Khawarij” was executed, Ebaa agency reported.

This is not the first victim among the Central Asian jihadists as a result of an armed confrontation between ISIS and al Qaeda. On April 27, 2017, during the evening prayer in the mosque of a Syrian city of Idlib, leader of the al Qaeda-backed Katibat Imam al Bukhari Sheikh Salahuddin was killed by an ISIS militant who was from Uzbekistan. The Islamic State distributed the following statement via Telegram messenger in this regard, “The emir of detachment of Katibat al-Imam Bukhari, Sheikh Salahuddin, was punished according to Sharia law for all the betrayals he committed.”Two ISIS terrorists from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan who murdered the Sheikh Salahuddin were detained and executed.

Lately in the northwestern province of Idlib, which is the last stronghold of the Syrian armed opposition, terrorist attacks of ISIS militants on military and religious sites al Qaeda-backed Hayat Tahrir al-Sham sharply intensified.Lately in the northwestern province of Idlib, which is the last stronghold of the Syrian armed opposition, terrorist attacks of ISIS militants on military and religious sites of al Qaeda-backed Hayat Tahrir al-Sham sharply intensified.

Terrorist organizations from Central Asia such as Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad, Katibat al-Imam Bukhari, as well as Uyghur groups from Chinese Xinjiang, the Turkestan Islamic Party and Katibat al-Ghuraba are located in Idlib.All of them were affiliated with al Qaeda and were fighting within the largest jihadist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham. The Salafi-jihadi ideologues of the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham are making efforts to transform the Idlib province into an emirate ruled under Shariah.

According the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 229 jihadists of al Qaeda were assassinated by ISIS terrorist attacks. Of these, 153 fighters belong to Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, al Qaeda-linked jihadist group Ahrar al-Sham, Jaysh al-Izza, and other factions operating in Idlib. 25 jihadists of Uzbek, Uyghur and Caucasian nationalities have been assassinated in the same ways.

Caliphate rising from the ashes

On July 12, 2018, ISIS’ media center Amaq issued the message with three images from an improvised explosive device attack in Idlib city. The target was Sheikh Anas Ayrout, the President of the Court of Appeal in Idlib, a longtime opposition figure and senior Sharia official who played a key role in the formation of the Syrian Salvation Government. Based on Shariah rule the Syrian Salvation Government is a civil authority formed in Idlib province in early November 2017 and backed by the rebel coalition Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.

A pinpoint attempt on such a high ranking religious and political figure indicates that the explosion was not accidental or chaotic.The al-Baghdadi militants have studied the possible routes of Sheikh Anas Ayrout and easily identified his car. They received from the Syrian Salvation Government information about when he would travel on this route.From this, it can be concluded that the Islamic state succeeded in introducing its agents into the military and religious structures of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and created a complex network of underground cells throughout Syria, including the Idlib province.

On July 13, 2018, the Islamic State’s propaganda machine released the information with several photos about the assassination of the Turkey-backed Sultan Murad Division rebel group’s leader Abu Ahmed al-Sansawi in Idlib city.ISIS’ photos clearly showed that the killing was a targeted assassination, during which the terrorists confidently pursued the car of al-Sansawi. This once again testifies that the underground ISIS network is organized at a high level, and they have mastered the tactics of guerrilla warfare.

The Media Center Amaq almost daily reports about Islamic state’s successful armed attacks on the positions of the “enemies of Islam” Hayat Tahrir al-Sham in the province of Idlib.Indeed, the guerrilla attacks and terrorist acts of the supporters of al-Baghdadi not only complicated the life of al-Qaeda-backed jihadists in Idlib, but they also caused a more serious threat to the security and defense of the entire armed Syrian opposition, than a possible attack by the Assad army and Iranian proxy Shiite militias with the support of Russian aviation.

On July 25, 2018, ISIS gunmen committed the bloodiest attack in Syria’s history in the southwestern Sweida province, killing 215 people and injuring 180 people.The sad reality is that the fighters of al Baghdadi survived the air strikes of the Western coalition and today continue to pour out streams of blood in Sham.They are trying to prove to the outside world and the entire Sunni jamaat that, despite the fall of Mosul and Raqqa, the military, human and organizational potential of the ISIS remains high.

Today, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and the Central Asian Salafi-jihadi groups have to fight on three fronts: with the armed forces of the Assad regime, the Iranian controlled Shiite proxy units and ideological opponents of the Islamic state.If the war with the first two is outlined by a clear front line, then the fight against ISIS is conducted as an invisible guerrilla war.

Since 2017, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham regularly conducts a security campaign to identify ISIS clandestine cells and eliminate its agents in the province of Idlib.But it is very difficult to solve the problem of ensuring the security.To intimidate those who support the emir of the overthrown Caliphate al Baghdadi and those who sympathize with him, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham began to publicly execute the ISIS prisoners of war.

On July 14, Anas Sheikh, a security officer inIdlib, told Eba news agency that in the village of Sarmin,Hayat Tahrir al-Sham executed 8 ISIS members led by their commander Abu Barra Sahili. As evidence, the group’s propagandists published a photo of executed terrorists.

On July 24, Eba agency reported that HTS militants destroyed a large cell of the Islamic state in the village of Jisr Shugur in the west of Idlib.As a result, the deputy amir of ISIS in Idlib Abu Said al-Shishani was captured and immediately executed. His photo was published on the Eba website.

Abu Said al-Shishani was the brother of ISIS military minister, Abu Omar al-Shishani (real name Tarkhan Batirashvili), a well-known Chechen terrorist and the closest military adviser to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.The US Treasury Department added Batirashvili to its list of “Specially Designated Global Terrorists”, and the US government announced a reward up to $5 million for information leading to his capture in 2015.

A sacrifice of the pure Islam

It should be noted that according to the direction of al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri,Hayat Tahrir al Sham and Central Asian jihadist groups avoided publicizing public executions of their enemies.But the difficult situation caused by the terrorist attacks of ISIS, apparently, forced the ideologists of al Qaeda to change the tactics of their propaganda.

In response, the jihadists of the Islamic state staged a wave of terror in the province of Idlib, as revenge for the murder of their members.They named their operation in honor of the murdered commander Abu Barra Sahili.Such a tradition was initiated by al Baghdadi himself.Earlier, ISIS carried out a military operation in honor of the lost military minister, Abu Omar al-Shishani, and in honor of the official spokesperson and senior leader of the Caliphate, Abu Mohammad al-Adnani.

The ideological rivalry and armed conflict between al Qaeda and ISIS for the leadership in the jihadist world has reached its peak.As is known, both terrorist groups are fighting for the purity of Islam.Both seek to establish Sharia laws, create an Islamic caliphate and to spread it around the world.ISIS ideologists consider the supporters of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham apostates and kaafirs (infidels).Al Qaeda described the supporters of the Islamic state as Khawarij (the early Islamic sect that was involved in the disruption of the unity of the Muslims and rebelled against the Khalifah).

From the analysis of ISIS activities over the last six months, it can be concluded that, firstly, the group leaders are trying to compensate for the loss of the Caliphate with abundant terrorist acts behind enemy lines and by expanding the geography of “the holy war.” Secondly, the supporters of the Islamic state managed to create at an advanced level an expanded underground network among Sunni Muslims in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Turkey, Yemen and Egypt. Thirdly, the publication of statements and press releases in the Amaq News Agency show that terrorist acts in different countries and regions are managed from a single ISIS center.

From a practical point of view, fighting between jihadists of the Islamic state and al Qaeda is beneficial to all countries that are fighting Islamist extremism and terrorism. A long and bloody confrontation will undoubtedly weaken the human, technical and financial potential of both Salafi-jihadi groups.

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Total Catastrophe Demands Total Solution: Boko Haram and the Dilemma of Northeast Nigeria

Chukwuemeka Egberase Okuchukwu

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The Boko Haram insurgency, far from being over and ravaging Northeastern Nigeria, has affected both the physical and social environment and led to displacing many residents of the Northeast from their homes. The Boko Haram insurgency, which can be traced back to the year 2009, has resulted in a grave humanitarian crisis with so many internally displaced persons in dire need of global intervention and assistance from donor agencies and states. The insurgency since 2013 has led to the displacement of 2.4 million people, including women and children making up the highest percentage most affected by the conflict. Food insecurity remains a major concern to the international community, with 5.2 million people in need of life-saving food assistance, especially those who are in IDP camps. Also, there is a growing health challenge being experienced by internally displaced persons.  For instance, on 16 August 2017 a cholera outbreak was reported on the outskirts of Borno’s capital, Maiduguri, and later on in Dikwa and Monguno as well. Within just two weeks there were 125 suspected/confirmed cases as well as eight suspected cholera-related deaths. These health challenges facing IDPs won’t change in the foreseeable future due to the limited humanitarian aid from donor agencies. Thus, these entirely preventable diseases are becoming endemic throughout the northeast.

Also in August 2017 there were major attacks against civilians, including despicable suicide bombings inside of IDP camps. Over 10 suicide bombing attacks took place during the reported period in Borno alone. These attacks have understandably discouraged humanitarian agencies from deploying their aid workers to the theatre of the conflict. Considering the high risks posed by the Boko Haram insurgency, most aid workers are unwilling to work in the Northeast part of Nigeria entirely, which consequently means the fate of all the IDPs there, within camps and without, are at the mercy of Boko Haram.

In order to ensure that humanitarian actors can continue to address the most pressing needs, physical access must be improved in northeast Nigeria which will help reduce the dilemma confronting IDPs in the region. It was discovered that by August 2017 the lack of access in certain areas of northeast Nigeria prevented food security organizations from reaching over 337,000 affected persons. Furthermore, the unpredictable internal migration movements of IDPs continue to pose a grave challenge to humanitarian agencies’ ability to respond in a timely and targeted manner. There is a collective agreement by all the non-Boko Haram northeast stakeholders that a return to normalcy and comprehensive resettlement of all IDPs across the region is the penultimate goal, second only to ensuring stable economic growth for the region’s sustainable redevelopment as the ultimate fight against extremism. This collective agreement has led the federal government of President Muhammadu Buhari to intensify its efforts to bring normalcy to the region and resettlement of all IDPs by directly engaging selected Boko Haram-controlled areas. In the meantime, however, this engagement increases the instability (if also dynamism) of the IDP situation.

According to the UNHCR December 2016 Report, out of the estimated 176,000 Nigerians (a sub-set of the total 2.3 Million IDPs) who fled to neighboring countries (Cameroon, Chad, and Niger), only 17,000 have returned and under circumstances falling far short of international standards. In many of these cases, the returnees are being processed to join other IDPs in formal and informal camps. This above report shows a certain level of dynamism, as they indicate that the returns are beginning to happen spontaneously. For instance, 2016 governmental reports on return assessments indicated that an estimated total of 332,333 IDPs (47,476 IDP households) returned to northern Adamawa (Mubi North, Mubi South, Michika, Maiha, Hong and Gombi). IDPs in Yobe are also beginning to relocate to communities and camps close to their original communities and only Borno State currently has the slowest rates of IDP returns. This is on account of the intermittent progress being made by the Nigerian military to defeat Boko Haram and the fact that many IDPs indicated a strong willingness to return of their own accord to their home communities if safety and security was at least semi-guaranteed. However, the comprehensive and full resettlement and return of IDPs to their homes depends largely on the total defeat of Boko Haram insurgents. Despite progress by the Nigerian military, that total victory is far from achieved or guaranteed.

There is a dire need for infrastructural development in the region as the Boko Haram insurgency has resulted in the destruction of facilities and installations, especially healthcare and educational institutions throughout the northeast. This dearth of infrastructural development has generated immense concerns which led to the National Assembly putting forward a bill to begin engineering this essential development of the region. Most recently, there was the signing of the Northeast Development Commission Bill by President Buhari. This law provides for the establishment of the Northeast Development Commission (NEDC). How effective this will be in bringing meaningful development to the conflict-ravaged region depends largely on how much funding is diverted to it and how sincerely and honestly will the commission manage those funds?

Thus, the way forward to ensure lasting peace while overcoming the grave humanitarian crisis confronting the northeast part of Nigeria is for the federal government (through its military and executive branch) to intensify efforts and show a high level of commitment toward not only defeating Boko Haram insurgents but making the economic, social, and food security of all citizens there politically paramount. Humanitarian global actors should also increase their efforts by committing more personnel physically to the region, thus reinforcing the commitment of the Nigerian government.  Finally, the management of the Northeast Development Commission (NEDC) should be free of corruption and manipulation when rebuilding the northeast, in order to avoid the pitfalls that bedeviled an earlier commission with similar mandate, the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). Until all parties involved, local and global, understand the holistic effort needed to not just overcome extremist elements but make Nigeria truly safe for all Nigerians, then the scourge of Boko Haram will continue.

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