Propaganda and operations of the Islamic State. Analysis of N. 339 of the weekly al-Naba.

The banner advertisement announcing the release of al-Naba 339 (Credits: the author of this analysis took this screenshot)

Geopolitical Report ISSN 2785-2598 Volume 19 Issue 12
Author: Daniele Garofalo

Every week the Islamic State releases its magazine al-Naba, which gives significant insights into the group’s activities and might support the risk assessment of future operations, violent attacks and propaganda campaigns.

Indeed, through the analysis of the weekly issue of the al-Naba newsletter, the official media product of the Islamic State, it is possible to assess the threat in operational terms of the jihadist organisation. The weekly newsletter reached issue 339 last Thursday.[1]

Propaganda and operations

Issue 339 refers to the week 11-17 of the month of Shawwal 1443 (May 14th, 2022 – May 19th, 2022). Al-Naba generally includes in the weekly most of the claims already published daily during the week just gone but includes new elements or more details, both written and photographic. However, it often happens that al-Naba also inserts previously unpublished claims or messages.

Following the usual editorial line, after the introductory page, the infographic summarises all the aforementioned operations conducted during the week. This is followed by the main editorial and all the operational insights with related photos. As far as issue 339 is concerned, the areas covered by operations last week were: Iraq, Nigeria, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Egypt. The number of dead and wounded indicated by the Islamic State is 84, with about a dozen military vehicles burnt or destroyed in all the areas.

Going into detail about the type of attacks, operations, and targets of the Islamic State fighters, who follow the two main strategies of “war of attrition” and “economic warfare”, we can note the following:

1) Iraq: operations were conducted in six areas: Salah al-Din, Tigris/Dayla, Diyala, Anbar and Kirkuk. The Islamic State targeted convoys, military vehicles, barracks and checkpoints of the Iraqi federal police, popular mobilisation militias, Shia militias, Iraqi Swat forces, a civilian accused of being a spy, and Kurdish peshmerga soldiers, who were hit with direct assaults, ambushes, IEDs and targeted assassinations. As far as the strategy of ‘economic warfare’ is concerned, an electricity tower on the Salah al-Din-Kirkuk line in the Riyadh region and a fuel station in western Anbar was demolished with explosives (first, they stole the fuel and then destroyed it).

2) Afghanistan: the Islamic State Khorasan hit the Taliban in Nangarhar, Kunar, Laghman and Kabul. They also bombed the positions of the Tajikistan forces on the border with Afghanistan.[2] About the strategy of “economic warfare”, the Islamic State Khorasan conducted an operation that led to the explosive demolition of an electricity tower in the Nangarhar area.

3) Pakistan: the Islamic State Khorasan struck in Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, where they attacked local police and killed two Sikh civilians

4) Syria: Islamic State fighters conducted attacks in the countryside west of Damascus, in Raqqa and al-Khair, mainly targeting pro-Assad militias and Kurds and its military assets through attacks and ambushes, IEDs and targeted assassinations.

5) Nigeria: the Islamic State of West Africa conducted attacks and operations in Borno, Yobe, Niger, Taraba and Kogi. They attacked Nigerian army military camps, checkpoints, convoys and patrols of the Nigerian army and police, killing soldiers and destroying their vehicles and Christian civilians (in a bar and a transit vehicle) through direct attacks, ambushes, targeted assassinations and IEDs. As for the “economic warfare” strategy, they destroyed a communications tower in Taraba State.

6) Egypt: the Islamic State claimed operations in several areas in Sinai (particularly al-Rafah), such as the killing of fighters and the destruction of military assets of Egyptian government militias and Egyptian border guards, through direct assaults on checkpoints, ambushes, targeted assassinations and IEDs. IS fighters also destroyed and burnt down a barracks after stealing weapons and equipment and blew up part of a gas pipeline in the Bar’ al-Abed area in Western Sinai.

The detailed summary in al-Naba 339 of the operations conducted by the Islamic State (Credits: Daniele Garofalo)[3]

Conclusions: Impact and implications

An assessment of the publication shows, comparing it with the previous issue and with the past weeks (with the operations during the month of Ramadan and the operations of the “Battle for the Revenge of the Two Sheikhs”), an apparent decrease in the organisation’s operations, both terms of military operations conducted and in terms of areas affected. The decline could give pause for thought and lead to the conclusion of a decrease in Islamic State operations due to organisational problems or counterterrorism operations. At the same time, however, it should not impress or lead to erroneous assessments of the strength and status of the organisation, since many times in the past, the Islamic State in various areas decreased its operations for a few short periods, mainly due to organisational and preparedness reasons.

Issue 339 confirms, however, a stable presence of the Islamic State in many Iraqi areas, stability in the Syrian regions, and a constant presence in AfPak (the affected Pakistani area is part of the Wilayah Khurasan’s operations), the continued presence in several Nigerian areas (not only in the north-western but also in the north-eastern and central regions), despite the continuous counterterrorism operations of the Nigerian Army, and the resilience of the group operating in Sinai, which was given up for defeat several times by the Egyptian army and media but continues to operate.

In addition, one notes the ability (and confirmation) to conduct attacks in different modes, to hit different targets and to succeed in every way in creating chaos and difficulties with both of its main strategies, particular that of the “economic warfare” (which registers however minimal numbers when compared to the strategy of the “war of attrition”) which creates problems for the central governments and discontent in the areas where the Islamic State exploits widespread dissatisfaction for support and recruitment.

A very interesting aspect of this issue of al-Naba, was the severe production mistake in the issue itself, which on page 11 inserted a part of the audio message of spokesman Abu Umar al-Muhajir, stating, “May Allah have mercy on him” (a phrase used for the dead).[4]. The error, which created no small amount of chaos in pro-Islamic State circles, was corrected after a few hours with the withdrawal of the previously published issue and the republication of the weekly magazine after a few hours with the correction and the indication of the phrase “May Allah have mercy on him” (used for the living).

Sources

[1] The publication of the editorial takes place via the Islamic State’s official media on various channels and platforms such as Telegram, Element, Rocket Chat (Tech Haven), Hoop, and unofficial websites on the web.

[2] Giuliano Bifolchi (2022) Political tensions and security threats in Tajikistan, Geopolitical Report ISSN 2785-2598, Vol.18(11). Link:  https://www.specialeurasia.com/2022/05/18/tajikistan-politics-security/

[3] This picture was retrieved on Telegram in the monitoring activity.

[4] As noted by Mina al-Lami, Twitter, May 20th, 2022. https://twitter.com/Minalami/status/1527550129175240704?s=20&t=C79_2C0-JY2CVO2QBtn5hA


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