As FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 nears its final stages, this month’s In Focus item analyzes the various responses to the football tournament and its host, Qatar, by the two major jihadi groups – Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. AQ issued official statements accusing Saudi Arabia and the UAE of spreading corruption in the Arabian Peninsula, depicting Qatar as a loyalist of the West, and particularly of the US, as it hosts the latter’s Al-Udeid Air Base, west of Doha. IS statements on the World Cup were fewer, the most prominent of which was the editorial in issue 366 of the group’s Al-Naba weekly newspaper. In addition, several IS-affiliated media outlets posted publications with practical advice for their supporters. On November 27, 2022, the semi-official Quraysh Media released a short statement, titled “An Opportunity that will not Repeat itself: a Journey to Paradise is better for you than Attending the World Cup,” as well as two infographic designs promoting TTPs for lone wolf jihadists.
As for IS on the ground, IS Sinai Province carried out its first attacks since 2018 outside of the administrative borders of the Sinai Peninsula. Between the night of November 18 and November 19, 2022, an Egyptian Army major and a conscript were killed, and a university student was injured, as a result of violent clashes between troops and ISSP gunmen in the Sinai University area of the city of Al-Qantara, in Ismailia Governorate. IS’ core agency, Amaq, also reported that on November 26, 2022, a police officer was killed, and a conscript was wounded in an attack targeting police forces in eastern Al-Qantara. While the power of the Islamic State’s affiliate in Sinai has declined in recent years, the growing number of incidents in the vicinity of the Suez Canal should not be regarded lightly.
In the Sahel, the two rival jihadi affiliates in the region – IS Sahel Province and Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin – saw an escalation in intergroup violence during November, following the withdrawal of French forces from Mali in August. Most of the clashes took place in Mali, close to the border with Burkina Faso. On October 31, 2022, JNIM claimed responsibility for a raid against IS fighters, claiming scores of casualties among IS militants in three days of clashes in northeastern Mali and in the Menaka region in eastern Mali. For its part, IS’ Amaq news agency reported that during November, they attacked JNIM forces in the Gao region, in northeastern Mali, and in the Menaka region, claiming they killed more than 130 JNIM militants during November. Moreover, Both JNIM and IS Sahel have expanded their attacks to the south, as terrorist incidents in recent months, all claimed by JNIM, have increased in Togo.
This month’s Who’s Who? item analyzes a Saudi phone number that belongs to a Bengali by the name of Masud Rahman. Masud works in Gemcon Group – a Bangladeshi diversified manufacturing company based in Dhaka, and he also has a Bengali phone number. Masud’s Saudi phone number was detected in three different WhatsApp groups with jihadist inclinations, where content by IS and Al-Qaeda is shared. In addition, he has several email addresses and a Facebook account that is currently locked, something that characterizes quite a few supporters of terrorism from Bangladesh.
And finally, in our new section – Instant Messaging Applications (IMA) Monitoring – we investigated a UAE phone number found in an Amharic-speaking IS-affiliated WhatsApp group, titled “Munasir Voice Radio.” Using our WEBINT systems, we identified the number as belonging to an Ethiopian national by the name of Seid Takele, who currently resides in Abu Dhabi. Seid’s membership in the group, as well his social media accounts, points to his ongoing radicalization.
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