Most terrorists are willing to join those, about who people are talking.
Originally appeared at VPK, translated by Comrade Korolyov exclusively for SouthFront
World media has amplified the threat from ISIS (banned in Russia) in such a way, that it turned from an unknown gang somewhere in Syria and Iraq, into an international terrorist empire in a matter of a couple of years. This is hardly so in reality. Most of these orthodoxy-salafist gangs in Near and Middle East, in Africa, Central, South and Southeastern Asia that swore allegiance to ISIS in reality have hardly anything to do with it.
Only in Libya, where, with active Qatar’s participation who patronises ISIS in Iraq and Syria, combat groups were transported that are saving themselves from airstrikes by the Russian Airspace Forces and antiterrorist coalition led by the United States, we can talk about some sort of a daughter organisation that is connected to the main Iraqi-Syrian one.
All others, including Nigerian, Somalian, Afghani, Southeastern Asian reflect the local jihadi-separatist attitudes, that are initiated or are supported by ISIS in connection to the fact that the local warlords at some point in their biography fought under ISIS – nothing more.
We can’t really talk about any sort of hierarchy in ISIS (or any sort of a united jihadi strategy) on a global scale, even though Islamist groups copy each others’ tactics, unify their experience and exchange it with each other – globalisation allows to create a unified informational space for radical islamism without any sort of problems. Qatar, in some cases (at the Sinai, Afghanistan, Libya) uses formations close to ISIS for its own purposes, however many from those structures act at their own accord, guided only by their own interests.
We will look at current situation in groups, that associate themselves with ISIS, at the periphery of the Muslim world – in Magrib (Libya), Indonesia and Malaysia, using works of A.A. Bystrov and M.V.Kazanin. They, apart from other things, use materials of Chinese analysts and secret services of Southeastern Asia. These sources contain exclusive information and are vastly different from similar-subject reports by Western and Neareastern intelligence services in that they are purely pragmatic in their approach and lack the ideological bias (although, admittedly, these sources are rarely used by the Russian experts and intelligence services).
Everyone has their own Libya
According to Chinese secret services, ISIS’ detachments have strong positions within Libya and are able to advance into Tunisia. U.S. military intelligence estimates this group in three-six thousand members. As of mid-february, the French special forces have a strong presence in western Libya. The French possess the espionage network in the cities and towns, particularly those, that are marked by activity from ISIS and related gangs.
The Chinese military stresses, that quite often the French act dressed as local civilians and try to minimise the differences in appearances, actively use underground communications that were created by the terrorists themselves. For Paris, usage of Special Forces is justified (as per what Beijing thinks) because an official permit for a military operation in Lybia is practically impossible to get, mostly because of political reasons.
Paris knows that after Gaddafi regime’s fall the country is in chaos and paramilitary groups do whatever they want. To organise a joint operation against terrorists one needs time, and French armed forces are incabable of conducting long-term military operations as they are greatly limited in resources. This is why Paris prefers to use Special Forces and only in special cases, such as destroying a large terrorist formation (- BBC).
According to the Second Directorate of the Unified Headquarters of the Central military council of China, to successfully face ISIS in Northern Africa, the French have confirmed “Strategic plan-2025”, according to which, the number of operatives will be increased, including the number of those, who operate under cover in Eastern European countries and Magrib states. Paris intends to lower the informational dependance on the U.S. and increase its own efforts in gathering intelligence to terminate the incapability of European intelligence services (including France’s own services) to gather information about the terrorists.
The first problem are ISIS’ plans to create chemical weapons from the materials stolen from Syrian warehouses in the first 2-3 years of conflict. Chinese military believes that the terrorists have a limited experience of using those weapons. To conduct attacks in densely populated European countries the terrorists need to solve the problem of secretly delivering the chemicals there.
As the ISIS is getting terminated in Libya, American intelligence community’s contribution is immense. USAF regularly strikes targets in Libya, however according to the British specialists, this is probably not going to prevent terrorist acts in Europe. The commander of Special Forces of U.S. military in Africa, brigadier general Donald Bolduc thinks, that involving Special Forces in Syria is inevitable, because the local forces loyal to the U.S. are incapable of facing the terrorists on their own, who already established control of many “native lands” in the region.
Chinese analysts believe that in the last 5 years the Pentagon increased the number of Special Forces units (by about 3500 operatives) and drones that are operating from Burkina-Faso and Niger. American Special Forces and logistics are detected in Djibuti, Ethiopia, Uganda, Congo, Kenya, Chad and Camerun. Altogether in Africa there are 60 military sites (airbases, intelligence centres, logistics points). They can be used for CT operations and special operations of other NATO members.
Washington allocates other NATO members finances to fight the terrorist threat. In 2015 the budget was comprised of 45 million dollars. However, U.S. minister of defense Ashton Carter is careful in estimating the perspectives of American military intervention in Libya. He says, that the help to official Tripoli must be taken up first and foremost by Italy and France, since the threat to their national security is very real. The United States are traditionally trying to get their NATO allies to increase their defense budgets so that they can share the military and financial load.
An active ally of the american-french military intervention in the situation – Niger’s president Mahamadou Issoufou hopes that the Armed Forces of these two countries will help to recreate a peaceful regime on the border with Libya.
The French Special Forces operatives are de-facto on general’s Khalifa Haftar’s side, that official Brussels demostratively ignores. At this moment, Haftar’s squads, that are attacking the islamists managed to take “17th February camp” and parially regain control of Benghasi. They surrounded a cement plant, where the terrorists are gathered. In liberated regions there is demining and hunting the remnants of islamist squads in progress. General Haftar’s soldiers took the “Rafall as-Sahati’s brigade” HQ and a nearby port. Islamists from “Ansar ash-sharia” and militia from Derna continue to hold western regions of the city, the poty and nearby districts.
The success of the advance the experts explain by a big shipment of logistics and resources from Egypt and also a direct participation of French special forces in the battle. The latter is bringing the question of a unified Western position on the local help not only to the general Haftar’s troops, that Brussels considers not only an obstacle in making a deal with Misurata, but an obtacle to the entire UN’s plan of action in Libya aimed at creating a unified government.
With hidden approval from Washington, Rome is considering a military intervention in Libya with 5000 servicemen. But differences in who would the U.S. and EU rely upon in fighting the terrorists is still there. The French are fighting on Haftar’s side. Americans, British and Italians were spotted in ranks of militia from Tripoli and Misurata. They are yet to fight the radicals from the Libyan ISIS, but they are already established a frontline with them.
Indonesia. “Remote Khalifate”
According to some sources, 1000-1500 citizens of Indonesia and Malaysia traveled to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS and Jabhat an-Nusra. Many, after the beginning of Russian intervention in the region, were killed. ISIS attempts to replenish the losses with Muslims from other regions of the world. The Chinese intelligence has information about terrorist recruiters sent to the UK as refugees (about 500 people), Germany (900 people) and France (about 400 people). We know, that ISIS’ leadership decided to create a “remote khalifate” in Southeastern Asia – “Islamic State Nusantara”.
To bring this idea into reality, over 100 terrorists were sent to Indonesia with its citizen, Muhammad Naim Baharan in charge, who were earlier convicted by Indonesian authorities in aiding international terrorism. He took part in Syrian war, however forced by his specialisation – IT and remote administration, he has established himself as a skillful internet user and director of propaganda films. Baharan connects with his troops via the Net and cellphone service. The Indonesian intelligence thinks that he is prone to using small children as suicide bombers.
According to information from secret services, Baharan is responsible for uniting islamist groups in this country and attracting sympathisers from Malaysia, Phillipenes, Singapore. To recruit new fighters, ISIS registered a few new websites. Medical workers, teachers, mechanics, PT instructors, preachers, lawyers and accountants are a priority. Baharan needs his own combat detachment, that is capable of conducting terrorist acts and support discipline inside the ISIS allies’ circles.
The following leaders of Indonesian islamist gangs have formed an alliance with ISIS: Abdullah al-Philippini (aka Insilon Hapilon – “Abu Sayaf” in Basilan province), Abu Anas al-muhadjir (aka Mohid Nadjib Hussein – “Ansar al-Sharia batallion”, Abu Harit al-Philippini (“Maarakat al-Ansar batallion” and Abu Sharif (“Ansar al-Kilafa”). Altogether these people comprise a formidable force.
On 14th of January, the indonesian capital was shaken by a terrorist attack conducted by “Abu Sayaf” group, as a result, 24 people were wounded, 1 Canadian citizen and 1 policeman were killed. 15th January the police detained two terrorist survivors (5 were suicide bombers) and their assistant. Indonesian, Singaporean and Malaysian security services increased their CT measures the same day, the military was called in for patrolling and guarding dense civilian populated areas.
We need to note, that “Abu-Sayaf” attracts fighters, that ensure a cover for the “living bombs” using firearms and grenades that further complicates the situation in the area of the attack, and calls for using special forces and the military. Indonesian military managed to establish that the terrorist attack was organised by Bahrain. According to their data, islamists planned to conduct a series of explosions in places where the foreigners are mostly present (cafes, restaurants, trade centers), however most terrorists were arrested by 9th of January.
In 2002-2009 the Indonesian police arrested only 98 people for terrorist activity and assisting the extremists. In the last 6 years, the circle of people who were arrested and charged with terrorism is nearing 433. According to Indonesian law, the minimal prison time for these charges is 2.5 years, and they consider this sufficient.
Chinese specialists note, that American, Australian and Indonesian partnership in fighting the islamist threat is more of a casual type. There is only one channel of information used from Canberra and Washington about possible terrorist attacks in Indonesia. Plus, departments of diplomatic security of American Foreign Office and Australia periodically issue “warnings for tourists, leaving for Indonesia”. But the threat of active actions of the extremists against foreigners and tourist infrastructure is still very high.
Malaysia can turn hot
According to Malaysian police, ISIS fighters that have returned from Syria, are preparing a series of attacks in Kuala-Lumpur using suicide bombers and firearms. They are planning to attack several objectives at once. According to Malaysian defense minister’s data, ISIS supporters plan to attack the country’s leadership as well. This information is supported by secret services from the UK and Australia, that inform their citizens leaving for Malaysia that the terrorist threat level there is high.
According to Halid Abu-Bakra, one of the country’s ministers, the bulk of malaysian (and also Phillipino and Indonesian) ISIS fighters are returning from Iraq and Syria through flights from Turkey. There is an increase in control of arriving merchant ships, as periodically there is information about large terrorist groups trying to infiltrate the country by sea. Only in 2015 Malaysian police arrested about 170 people suspected of aiding the terrorist organisations.
There were over 10 people detained in January that were accused of preparing a series of attacks in Kuala-Lumpurian districts of Bukit Bitang, Bangsar, Selangor, Johor, Keda, Golden Garden, and near the main tourist attraction – Petronas skyscrapers. After these arrests, fighters from “Katiba Nusantara” (aka “ISIS combat detachment in the countries of Malayan archipelago”) published a videp where they demanded Malaysian government release the arrested. The leader of this organisation – Bahrun Naim. The recruiting of new members in Malaysia is handled by Muhamman Vandi Mohammed Djedi (Abu Hamza). Psychological pressing is conducted through internet messengers such as Telegram and Facebook and Instagram. The leaders of CT department of Malaysian police Aub Han Maid Pitchai notes, that these websites are used by terrorists who returned from the Near and Middle East to prepare and instruct the recruits how to conduct terrorist attacks in other countries.
“Abu Sayaf” fighters are acting in Malaysia, but they are not the only ones. There is also “Bangasamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters”. One of the biggest gangs in the region – “Moro Islamic Liberation Front” – accused ISIS of brutal treatment of civilian in Syria and Iraq. To hide themselves, malaysian mujahadeen are recommended to shave off their beards, avoid mosques and libraries with islamist literature, behave loyally or neutrally, not participate in robberies or raqueteering, and not attempt to organise weapons and explosives shipments themselves. A famous Muslim preacher Zamihan Mat Zin al-Gari notes, that the government must act on a “spiritual front”, create a consulting center for the Muslims in doubt, that would work to break ISIS’ ideals. This center will be used to counter the propaganda through social networks, as ISIS’ action are still finding support. Its supporters in Malaysia are numbering 50-310 thousand people which is more than enough for a mass recruitment campaign.
Malaysian police director, Tajedin Muhammad Isa confirmed the increase in security measures near tourist spots. The police widely uses raids in city living districts to counter extremism, and to increase the quality of CT operations, contacts have been established with CT forces of the US, Indonesia, Thailand, Phillipenes, Switzerland, Canada, Ireland and New Zealand.