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Hydra Report – Recent IS Developments in Al-Sham

Hydra Report – Recent IS Developments in Al-Sham

The passing month has been hectic for the Islamic State Al-Sham (Syria) Province, highlighted by its most profound attack in recent years and the elimination of IS leader Abdullah Qardash. On January 20, 2022, the group carried out a complex operation to release some 4,000 of its militants imprisoned in Ghweiran Prison, in the south of the city of Al-Hasakah, in northeastern Syria, an area controlled by Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces. The attack incorporated at least one truck SVBIED and four groups of fighters, operating inside and outside the prison, and preventing SDF reinforcements from reaching the scene. While IS Amaq News Agency declared the operation a resounding success, with dozens of Kurdish fighters dead and hundreds of IS militants released, the SDF Press Center claimed the operation was a failure and insisted its forces were in control of the situation. Two weeks later, on February 3, 2022, US President Joe Biden announced the elimination of IS leader Abdullah Qardash, in the village of Atmah, in Idlib Governorate, close to the border with Turkey. To date, there has been no official comment from IS regarding the incident.

In Somalia, a country in constant turmoil, this period is being marked by a devastating drought and the accompanying humanitarian crisis, as well as the upcoming elections, set for February 25, 2022, after being postponed since late 2020. Always ready to exploit the situation for their needs, Al-Shabaab carried out a series of SVBIED and PBIED attacks in Mogadishu in the first few weeks of the year, targeting government, UN and police personnel, as well as other targets related to the elections. Chinese interests in Africa did not slip from the group’s list of targets, and on January 23, 2022, its militants raided a China Communications Construction Company work site in Kenya, torching eight of the company’s vehicles in the parking lot. On the propaganda level, Al-Shabaab released several videos starring militants who immigrated to Somalia from other countries encouraging jihadists to emigrate and do the same.

Back to IS, now in Thailand, where a vibrant Muslim non-jihadi insurgency has been active since 2004. On January 7, 2022, a patrol of five Thai Rangers was targeted by an IED planted on the roadside in Nong Chik District, in the country’s southern Pattani Province, causing no significant damage. Later that day, a media unit dubbed “Al-Nbiras” (Lit. “The Lantern,”) made its debut when it published an English- and Thai-language reporting of the attack on its channels on the Islamic State Rocket.Chat server and on Telegram, stating that Mujahideen “loyal to the Caliph” had initiated the IED. The January 7 attack marks the first time actors clearly affiliated with a global jihadist group have purportedly masterminded and orchestrated an attack in the southern Thailand arena.

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