The Islamic State has issued via its 'Amaq News Agency' initial claims of multiple improvised explosive device (IED) attacks against the Taliban in 'Jalalabad' in east Afghanistan, marking the group's first claimed attacks in Afghanistan since the completion of the U.S. withdrawal. This was followed by an official claim issued in the name of the 'Khorasan province' (Wilayat Khorasan) of the Islamic State. Reports with translation below.
By now, the conflict between the al-Qa'ida-loyalist group Hurras al-Din and Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham in northwest Syria is well known. The latter, which broke off from al-Qa'ida, began cracking down extensively on Hurras al-Din when the al-Qa'ida-loyalist group set up an independent operations room with other jihadist factions. That operations room was quickly dismantled by the much stronger Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham, but as Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham perceives Hurras al-Din as a threat to its authority and standing in northwest Syria, it has continued to launch regular security inspections and campaigns in the areas of its control, apparently aimed at arresting wanted members of Hurras al-Din. Some prominent figures of Hurras al-Din like Abu Abd al-Rahman al-Makki have been imprisoned. Attempting to demonstrate its ongoing relevance, Hurras al-Din has resorted to conducting operations deep inside enemy territory, claiming one operation in Raqqa province and another more recently in Damascus.
This week's issue of the Islamic State's al-Naba' newsletter features a 'story of a martyr.' The subject of this article is a man called Abu Omar al-Khalayfawi, who is said to have been a veteran of the jihadist insurgency in Iraq since the early days of the American invasion and his pledge of allegiance to Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi. Abu Omar's timeline can be summarised as follows:
. Born in 1405 AH (i.e. 1984-1985) in the al-Taji area (north of Baghdad) to a religious family.
. Pledged allegiance to Zarqawi and fought the American occupiers in north Baghdad, al-Karma and Fallujah.
. Joined Islamic State of Iraq and commanded a detachment in the Sheikh Aamer area in al-Taji.
Omar Omsen, who led the French muhajireen (foreign fighter) group 'Firqatul Ghuraba' operating in northwest Syria, was arrested by Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (the dominant faction in the region) more than a year ago. It turns out that Omsen's son Bilal has also been arrested by the group. A clarification on the matter comes in a new statement issued in the name of Omar Omsen's family. Below is my translation of the statement (thanks Wassim Nasr for drawing the statement to my attention).
Has the Taliban of today changed at all from the Taliban that ruled most of Afghanistan in the period of 1996-2001? What is the extent of ideological difference between the Taliban and the Islamic State? These are common questions that have arisen in light of the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan. As it happens, an article in a recent issue of the Taliban's Arabic-language magazine 'al-Sumud' addresses these matters, in an article entitled 'Between the Taliban of today and the Taliban of yesterday: what is it that has changed?' To preface, I thank Aaron Zelin for suggesting that I translate this article.
The article is primarily aimed as a response to the Islamic State and its supporters who declare takfir on the Taliban (i.e. proclaim it to be a group of disbelievers/apostates), seemingly supposing a difference between the 'Taliban of today' and the Taliban of yesterday.' The current Taliban, supposedly, has deviated and made compromises, and is contrasted in this reading with the Taliban when it was led by Mullah Muhammad Omar and was commended by the likes of Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi and Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, the latter of whom praised the group in a speech in 2011.
توصلت الجهات المتصارعة (الا وهي <<حكومة الوفاق الوطني>> في طرابلس وقوات خليفة حفتر في شرق ووسط ليبيا تحت مسمى <<الجيش الوطني الليبي>>) الى اتفاق وقف اطلاق النار رسمياً السنة. وعلى اساس هذه السنة ستكون هناك انتخابات تمهيداً لحل سياسي متكامل في ليبيا, الا ان المقاتلين السوريين الذين انتشروا دعماً للجهات المتصارعة لا يزالون موجودين في البلد. انه من الجدير بالذكر ان المقاتلين الذين انتشروا في مناطق حكومة الوفاق الوطني تم نشرهم بدعم من تركيا. اما المقاتلون الذين انتشروا في مناطق قوات حفتر, فقام الجانب الروسي بنشرهم. وان هذه الظاهرة عبارة عن تحد اكبر يواجه البلد, فتشكيل حكومة موحدة شيء وتوحيد قوات الجهات المتصارعة في سياق قوات مسلحة موحدة مع حل مسألة المقاتلين الأجانب الذين جلبهم الداعمون الخارجيون شيء آخر.
Officially, Libya's main warring sides (namely, the 'Government of National Accord' based out of Tripoli in western Libya, and Khalifa Haftar's 'Libyan National Army' forces in eastern and central Libya) came to a ceasefire agreement last year. There are supposed to be elections later this year to pave the way for a lasting political settlement in the country. However, Syrian fighters who have deployed on the main warring sides remain in the country. Those who have deployed in the areas of the 'Government of National Accord' have done so with Turkish support, while those who have deployed in areas controlled by Haftar's forces have done so with Russian support. This phenomenon is indicative of the wider problem facing Libya: it is one thing to establish an official unitary government, but quite another to bring together the military forces of the warring sides into unified armed forces and resolve the status of foreign fighters who have been brought in by foreign patrons of the warring sides.
In the study of extremist movements in the present, it is always helpful to bear in mind comparisons with those of the past. One of my colleagues- Charlie Winter- wrote his doctoral thesis on the Islamic State's use of photography in its propaganda. Therefore, I imagine that he would have a field day engaging in thematic analysis of 'Das Antlitz Des Führers' ('The Führer's Face'), a short Adolf Hitler photo-propaganda book produced in 1939 by Heinrich Hoffman, who was a photographer for Hitler. Below I produce the original pages of the book with my translation of the German text.
The village of Bakh'a (also called al-Sarkha) is located in the Damascus countryside governorate. Along with Ma'loula and Jubb'adin, Bakh'a is distinguished by the fact that its original inhabitants speak the Western Neo-Aramaic language. Unfortunately, Bakh'a suffered extensive damage during the war, though there are some ongoing efforts in the direction of reconstruction. Today, I conducted an interview with Deya'a al-Din Salim, who is head of Bakh'a's municipal office affiliated with the Syrian government. This interview features Deya'a's answers in Western Neo-Aramaic along with Arabic and English translations.
تقع قرية بخعة (وإسمها قرية الصرخة أيضاً) في محافظة ريف دمشق. والى جانب قريتي معلولا وجبعدين تتميز قرية بخعة بان سكانها الأصليين يتكلمون اللغة الآرامية الغربية المعاصرة. مع الأسف تعرضت قرية بخعة لدمار كثير خلال الحرب ولكن هناك جهوداً مستمرة في اعادة الإعمار. واليوم أجريت مقابلة مع ضياء الدين سالم وهو رئيس بلدية بخعة التابعة للحكومة السورية. تضمن هذه المقابلة اجوبة ضياء على الأسئلة بالآرامية الغربية المعاصرة مع الترجمة العربية والترجمة الإنكيليزية.
This week's editorial in the Islamic State's newsletter 'al-Naba" is- rather unsurprisingly- about the suicide bombing conducted in the Kabul airport area by an operative for its 'Khorasan province'. The editorial's main points are follows:
. First, it begins with a focus on the American casualties, mocking a previous claim of Trump to have destroyed the Islamic State in eastern Afghanistan. Whereas the United States was previously boasting of carrying out the largest air evacuation operation, now it laments its losses. The Islamic State has been preserved by God as it fights for His sake and fights the battle of monotheism (Tawheed).