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Jableh and Tartous
On May 23, 2016, ISIS carried out a series of coordinated and precisely timed suicide bombing attacks in several crowded places (central bus stations, hospitals) in the cities of Jableh and Tartous. These cities are located in the Latakia Province in western Syria, the stronghold of the Alawite community in Syria. The attacks were carried out simultaneously by suicide bombers and by using car bombs. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks, which killed over 150 people and injured over 200 others.
In the city of Jableh (around 80,000 inhabitants), south of the city of Latakia, there were four suicide bombing attacks and another attack was thwarted. A car bomb exploded in the city’s central bus station. Three other attacks were carried out near Jableh Hospital (Syrian TV, May 23, 2016). An ISIS operative who intended to carry out another attack was caught.
In the city of Tartous (around 120,000 inhabitants), four suicide bombings were carried out simultaneously: three attacks were carried out at the central bus station in the south of the city. Another attack was carried out in a residential area adjacent to the central bus station
In a statement issued by ISIS’s news agency, the Coastal Province of the Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks in Jableh and Tartous. The statement says that ISIS managed to infiltrate the strongholds of the Alawites (“the infidels”) in Tartous and Jableh and deploy car bombs and operatives who blew themselves up using explosive belts. The attacks killed over 150 people and injured around 300 others. According to the statement, the objective was to give the Alawites a “taste of the death” that the Muslims taste as a result of the Russian and Syrian airstrikes in Muslim cities. ISIS promised to carry out more attacks against the Syrian regime: “The next attacks will be more terrible and more bitter”
This wave of terrorist attacks is the first of its kind carried out in the Latakia Province in western Syria.
During the five years of civil war in Syria, the residents of the Latakia Province enjoyed relative calm that enabled them to proceed with their daily lives, in stark contrast to the grave situation prevailing in the other provinces.
Analysis of the implications of the attacks
For the Syrian regime and its allies Russia and Iran, the terrorist attacks in Tartous and Jableh represent a blow in terms of security and politics. The attacks were carried out against the background of ISIS’s failures in Syria and Iraq, and the emerging threat against ISIS’s core areas (Al-Raqqah in Syria and Mosul in Iraq). The terrorist attacks in the Latakia Province, like the wave of terror in Baghdad, are designed to strengthen ISIS’s deterrent image and demonstrate to the Syrian and Iraqi regimes its ability to strike vital targets and their soft underbelly. As ISIS weakens, its motivation and that of its supporters to carry out terrorist attacks and guerrilla warfare will increase, and the targets may be ISIS’s enemies in Syria and Iraq, as well the West, Russia, and Israel.
On May 24th , 2016, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish-Arab military umbrella framework supported by the US, announced the start of a campaign to take over the city of Al-Raqqah. To this end, thousands of soldiers were reportedly recruited in areas north of Al-Raqqah. The fighting is now concentrated in and around the town of Al-Issa, south of Tal Abyad (about 50 km north of Al-Raqqah).
ISIS continues to conduct guerrilla warfare against the Syrian Army in Palmyra. Fighting continues in the Al-Sha’ir oil and gas field to the west of the city. ISIS reportedly attacked a Russian Air Force base, hitting four attack helicopters.
Clashes continued between ISIS and the Al-Nusra Front in the area of the Al-Yarmouk refugee camp. In addition, there were clashes between the Syrian Army and Al-Nusra Front operatives in the rural area east of Damascus.
Fallujah, located about 54 km west of Baghdad, is the most important stronghold still held by ISIS in the Sunni Al-Anbar Province. It is a city of great symbolic value, which was a stronghold of jihadists in Iraq during the US military occupation of Iraq. Some of its residents fled, but around 60,000 remained. On May 22nd , 2016, Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi announced the beginning of an operation to liberate the city of Fallujah from the hands of ISIS. The operation is being conducted by the Iraqi security forces, supported by Shiite militias and Sunni tribes.
According to sources among the Shiite militias supporting the Iraqi Army, Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Qods Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, is in the area and taking part in conducting the campaign over Fallujah.
According to the latest Intelligence, civilians are being trapped and used as human shields by ISIS fighters and forced to combat against the Iraqi Army.
ISIS Videos supporting and asking for assistance regarding Fallujah operation were submitted to protected channels May 30th.
According to some Intelligence Officers Fallujah is right now surrounded by the Iraqi Army.
EGYPT and the SINAI PENINSULA
During the week, the Egyptian security forces continued their activity against ISIS’s Sinai Province in the areas of Sheikh Zuweid, Al-Arish, and Rafah. Dozens of airstrikes were carried out. During the operation, ISIS operatives were killed, and large quantities of weapons and IEDs were destroyed. In addition, several dozen suspects were detained and vehicles were seized. The Egyptian security forces reportedly destroyed eight tunnels on the border with the Gaza Strip and in the area of Rafah.
In the town of Abu Qarin, west of Sirte, fighting continued between ISIS and the Islamic militia Libyan Dawn. Libyan Dawn announced the liberation of the towns of Abu Qarin, Zamzam, Al-Qadahiya, Abu Najim and Al-Washaka, which had been taken over by ISIS on May 5, 2016. According to Libyan Dawn’s announcement, 32 of their operatives were killed in the battles against ISIS and around 50 others were injured.
After the takeover of the town of Abu Qarin, Libyan Dawn’s forces tried to open the road leading from the Abu Qarin area to Al-Jafra, the desert area in central Libya. ISIS’s Tripoli Province claims to have activated a number of IEDs against a Libyan Dawn convoy that tried to advance from Al-Jafra to Abu Qarin, inflicting casualties on the convoy and causing it to retreat. Mohamed Sualim, former labor minister in the Tripoli government and one of the commanders of Libyan Dawn’s forces, was reportedly killed in the fighting.
Control of the Abu Qarin area is of great importance since it gives Libyan Dawn’s militias and their supporters a good launching ground to reach the city of Sirte, ISIS’s stronghold in Libya. On the other hand, control of the region will give ISIS a good launching ground to advance towards the important port city of Misrata, halfway between Sirte and Tripoli.
ISIS carried out two suicide bombing attacks in Aden. The first attack was carried out at the local recruitment office. Some 45 people were killed, most of them members of the security forces, and dozens more were wounded. ISIS’s Aden Province published a claim of responsibility for the killing of more than 30 “infidels” at a recruiting office in Aden. Shortly after the bombing at the recruitment office, another suicide bombing was carried out nearby, near the Yemeni Army’s Bader Camp. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.
Islamic State Conduct
A travel agency affiliated with the Al-Khayr (Deir al-Zor) Province of the Islamic State listed the conditions that must be met by civilians who want to leave the country in order to ulfil the religious obligation of the Hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca). In order to leave the territory, they must obtain a special travel document. To this end, they must submit, among other things, a photocopy of their identity card, two passport photos, and references from two ISIS operatives. They must also submit a certified document attesting to the ownership of a home, and a photocopy of a diploma from a course in Islamic law. It can be assumed that such restrictions almost completely prevent residents from leaving the territory of the Islamic State, even in order to fulfill the religious obligation of the Hajj.
According to counterterrorism experts in the US and Europe, Al-Qaeda’s senior leadership in Pakistan, which has been severely weakened by years of US attacks, has decided that Al-Qaeda’s future lies in Syria. To this end, Al-Qaeda’s leadership has secretly sent several senior experienced and skilled operatives to Syria. The operatives were sent there to establish an alternative headquarters and lay the groundwork for the possible establishment of a caliphate through the Al-Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria. The move reflects the growing importance of Syria for the Al-Nusra Front. If this information is true, it indicates a change in policy for Al-Qaeda, which has so far opposed the establishment of a caliphate before the conditions are ripe.
ISIS PROTECTED CHANNELS
ISIS released a video May 29th called “From humiliation to glory” where their fighters in West Africa made a call to every Muslim to join the group.
Al Hayat Media Center produced a video released May 30th called “The Religion of kufr is one” challenging coalition forces and Taliban in Khorasan.
According to intelligence agencies in Germany and Italy, ISIS is planning to carry out terrorist attacks during the summer against crowded beaches in the south of France, Spain, Italy, Turkey and Morocco. To this end, ISIS is training Indian combatants in the area of Lake Qattinah, southwest of the city of Homs. France warned about possible attacks by ISIS during the Euro 2016 Games scheduled for next month. Such attacks could be carried out by planting explosive devices where large crowds are gathered.
A video released by ISIS’s Homs Province shows Indian operatives fighting in Syria, in the area of Homs. The operatives in the video denounce the Indian government’s attitude towards Muslims and threaten to carry out attacks in India. The video describes ISIS’s version of the history of the Muslims in India. One of the Indian speakers calls on doctors, engineers and other professionals in India to migrate to the Islamic State and support it. Indian operatives are expected to carry out attacks on crowded beaches in Western Europe and Muslim countries.
Our assessment is that UK and France are on the top list for such terror attacks as some Dark Web forums commented in the past regarding a possible act before “Brexit” vote in order to decrease EU strength and capacity.
ISIS British widow Sally Jones, “Umm Hussain Britanya” threatened UK, mostly in Central London and emphasized for individuals to avoid tube and and crowded places during June and July 2016.
We have reasons to believe that ISIS is planning more attacks in accordance with Al Adnani speech asking for revenge this Ramadan period. He noted that even if they loose Raqqa and Sirte, they will stay totally tuned up with their guerrilla warfare methodology. We are expecting this June/July 2016 the new Dabiq magazine edition, #15, making sense for them to prepare something huge and powerful to show the world.Regional Report on Syria and Iraq to 30 May 16 – Security Middle East
Philip Ingram MBE – A journalist and entrepreneur who has built on a long and senior military career as an intelligence officer and planner. He´s a business planner, mentor and author of business planning articles for the IoD and security related articles for SecurityNewsDesk.com and SecurityMiddleEast.com and for the Middle East Security Expo INTERSEC.
Vasco Da Cruz Amador – Well experienced in counter surveillance and counter-intelligence with a vast experience at the field. Managed risk management Projects worldwide with a special emphasis in Africa and Middle East mostly in hostile environments. Former Team Leader of a Covert Unit. Played an active role as Intel Analyst for 2008 Angolan elections, as well as TL for 2010 World Soccer Cup in South Africa, mostly developed in Cape Town.
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(Security Affairs –Terrorism, intelligence)