Fortnightly Review & Analysis – Defense, National Security and Terrorism (Vol 1 Issue V)

(August 16-31, 2016)

International Terrorism

ISIS Related Developments

Suicide Bombing in Turkey

During the second half of August, Turkey was hit hard by a suicide bomber. On 21 August, a ‘child soldier’, aged between 12 and 14, allegedly belonging to Islamic States of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), blew himself up at a wedding ceremony in Gaziantep in the south-eastern part of the country killing 51 people. The celebration was mainly attended by Kurds and this gruesome attack indicated the growing divide and animosity between different sects not only in Turkey but also in different parts of the region (West Asia). So far, this particular incident ranked amongst the worst, with the death toll surpassing even that of Ataturk-airport incident which took 44 lives. The civilians, mainly from the Kurdish region, blamed the Turkish government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan for its failure to prevent such attacks. This incident also brought to the fore the activities which are being conducted by ISIS militias along the Syrian-Turkish borders, away from their previously-held strongholds. The incident came as a cruel reminder of the propaganda video and related media reports about training being given by ISIS to children in Syria, Iraq and also in Afghanistan. While the concept of “child soldier” is not a new, ISIS is likely to deploy the children on suicide missions, and more such attacks may happen, particularly in civilian areas where they are not easily identifiable.

Syrian City of Manbij Liberated

The security-political situation in Syria shows no sign of improvement. As a matter of fact, the involvement of regional and external players in the country’s crisis is getting messier. The problem is reaching nowhere near to any solution, mainly because of the conflicting interests of countries such as the United States (US), Russia, Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc.

That said ISIS militias came under heavy military campaigns from the coalition forces. The northern Syrian city of Manbij was been liberated from the ISIS during mid-August, and more than 2,000 residents, who were held hostage, were set free. Celebrating the freedom from the ISIS militias, people burnt burqas and some even shaved off their beards, which otherwise, had to be maintained under the outfit’s rule. ISIS ruled this city for over two years. A US-backed coalition of fighters intensely engaged in 73 days of fighting and drove ISIS out. Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) played an important role during the operation. The recapture of Manbij is a major setback for the terror outfit as it served as a supply route from Turkey. ISIS had laid several mine resulting in several instances of blasts and resultant deaths.

ISIS Spokesperson Killed

Towards the end of August, ISIS spokesperson Mohammad al-Adnani (39) was killed in an airstrike in the Aleppo province in northern Syria. Both the US and Russia claimed credit for the killing of this influential leader but it is still uncertain who actually carried out the operation. Along with al-Adnani, up to 40 ISIS militias were also reportedly killed by a bomber. This is a severe blow to the terror outfit, particularly at this stage when its command and control in Syria and Iraq are dwindling rapidly. Moreover, the plan of ISIS to retain access to the Turkish border, which is a few kilometres away, is likely to be affected due to his death. He was considered to be one of the most important leaders or second-in-command, next to the self-proclaimed caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Al-Adani also headed the outfit’s so-called “security service and its propaganda wing”, also known as ‘Emni’, which was responsible for calling on the fighters to carry out attacks worldwide. In one of his speeches, he had said, “If you can kill a disbelieving American or European – especially the spiteful and filthy French – or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever waging war, including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State, then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way, however it may be”. In the recent past, attackers in Europe cited messages sent out by him. So important was his role in ISIS that the US had announced a bounty of US $ 5 million on him. Just a few months ago, he called on the lone-wolves to intensify attacks, particularly during the holy month of Ramadan. He also said, “Lone wolf attacks in the US and Europe were dearer to us than the biggest action by us” in Iraq and Syria”. Many of the attacks, including the November-2015 Paris attack, were reportedly ordered by al-Adnani. His role in the recruitment of new ISIS members was widely acknowledged. It is yet to be seen how effectively ISIS will operate in the absence of its leader who was responsible for most of the brazen attacks on the European soil.


Mastermind of Gulshan Cafe Attack Killed

In a police raid on August 27, three suspected militants were killed. One of them was identified as Bangladeshi-Canadian Tamim, the suspected Gulshan attack mastermind, described as the Islamic State’s Bangladesh chapter chief by some international media. Police had announced a Tk. 2 million reward for information leading to Tamim.

Attacks against Minorities

Miscreants attacked caretaker of a Hindu temple at Sadar Upzila in Narsingdi, on August 23. Three young men riding a motorcycle carried out the action against Chittayaranjan who was taken to Dhaka Medical College Hospital.

A new militant outfit named ‘Ansar Rajshahi’ has prepared a list of local Hindus and secularists with plans to kill them. The police claim that the members communicate with each other through secured messaging application Threema and social Facebook. Since last year, the JMB members have killed at least seven Hindu priests across the country while threatened several dozen Hindus and Christians with death. The outfit also launched attacks on three Christians in the northern districts, killing two of them.

The banned Islamic outfit Hizb-ut-Tahrir, in a letter sent by post to the district commissioner’s office, on August 23, threatened five prominent cultural and political personalities in Jessore. The letter read: “Killing atheist and apostates is a way to heaven for Muslims. Your death sentence is final. Execution will be carried out any time and don’t dare to harass militant brothers.” The letter lists the names of prominent personalities being targeted.

IS Sent Agents to Bangladesh

In an interview with New York Times, Harry Sarfo who joined IS in 2014, disclosed that IS special cell had sent out hundreds of Jihadists worldwide. Harry Sarfo who escaped the terrorist group’s territory and is now in Jail in Germany, added that the group has trained recruits to carry out attacks in Bangladesh. ISIS has been trying to build a network in Bangladesh, giving preference to people who were previously aligned with Al-Qaeda.


Action against Radicalisation

The Central Government has directed the Jammu & Kashmir state authorities to launch an immediate crackdown on the radicalised groups affiliated to Jamaat-e-Islami who have fuelled the unrest in the Valley. It has been reported that, “ A list of as many as 80 agent provocateurs have been identified for the state government to initiate suitable action”. Meanwhile, the intelligence agencies are probing the process of funding in the Valley. The agencies suspect that Rs. 30 crore has been pumped into Kashmir to escalate the ongoing radicalisation. Most of the money has come from Middle-East through the hawala network. Home Ministry has directed the agencies to block the funding channels and reduce the level of political unrest.

Online Radicalisation

According to a report Karen Aisha Hamidon, 35 years old Filipino national has emerged as the ‘biggest online honey trap’ recruiter for ISIS in India. She has been in regular touch with men and women all over the country. Mohd. Sirajuddin, a marketing manager with the Indian Oil Corporation, was recently arrested for his alleged links with ISIS in India. He was the first person to mention on Aisha.

NIA officials believe that Aisha was in direct touch with top ISIS leadership. Once the youth were radicalised online, she handed over the potential recruits to the ‘handlers’ who sent them forward to the ISIS controlled area. Aisha has no official police record of any violent activities. NIA’s letter rogatory to Philippines Government is pending consideration.

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