Weekly Analyst Review
BOTTOM LINE UP FRONT: TRAC Senior Analyst Daniel Lebowitz provides his monthly overview of global Islamic State activities with continued hot and heavy action in Nigeria and west Africa. In April, Islamic State claimed 187 attacks across the globe through its official media branch. Nigeria continues to remain the strongest IS contingent outside Syria and Iraq. This month's overview coincides with the first 18 days of Ramadan, which began on 13 April. Islamic State's increased operational tempo from the 13th onward is reflected in the claims of credit published by Islamic State's media branch:

  • In Syria, 36 out of 47 total attacks claimed during April occurred from 13-30 April. 
  • In Iraq, 73 out of 79 total attacks for the month took place from 13-30 April. 
Claimed operations in Iraq were nearly double the total from March. The increase should be expected in the beginning of May as well since Ramadan isn't expected to end until Eid on 13 May. As we have continually reported, ISWA has been very active. In a single week in April for instance, (11-17 April) ISWA militants raided the border town of Damask twice near Lake Chad in the Mobbar Local Government Area (LGA) close to the Niger border, causing thousands of civilians to flee across the Yobe river into southeast Niger (Diffa) or toward Maiduguri in Borno State. A telecommunications tower was intentionally destroyed in the Biu Local Government Area southwest of Maiduguri on 13 April in pursuit of the 'ongoing economic war' announced in February. And in a potentially significant development, ISWA has upped its propaganda game as Daniel covers in the analysis below.
Images (Above): (Middle & Below): Young children gathered at Zakat distribution points in northeast Nigeria, note the 'West Africa Province' sign in the second photo. 
TRAC Incident Report: Islamic State West Africa (ISWA) Issues Photo Report Documenting Zakat Collection and Distribution, Da'wah Activities in Nigeria
Islamic State West Africa (ISWA / ISWAP) is disseminating goods and services to local supporters in their areas of control in northeast Nigeria and the Lake Chad basin as evidenced by their publicized Zakat collection/distribution efforts and Da'wah activities during Ramadan. The lack of a government or military presence and the coinciding security vacuum affords ISWA an opportunity to further consolidate their foothold in the region by providing for the community, which in turn generates a new pool of potential recruits and further erodes confidence in the government and Nigerian Armed Forces. Young children are observed receiving Zakat and soaking in the ISWA sermons, a disturbing reality of the multi-generational impact of the Islamic State presence in the region.
Gifts of food, clothing or money to the poor are commonplace during Ramadan in all Islamic cultures globally. The optics of ISWA fighters and preachers participating in a cornerstone of Ramadan charitable values worldwide is meant to boast not just to the locals but also their international audience as well as an attempt to impress Islamic State Central Command.  
TRAC INCIDENT REPORT: Suicide Bomber (VBIED) Targets Sayed Ul-Shuhada High School During Female Students Shift in Shia Hazara Kabul's Dasht-e-Barchi Area, PD 13, in Kabul, Afghanistan
As US military forces and diplomatic personnel continue the retrograde from Afghanistan, an especially tragic attack on 08 May left the capital city of Kabul stunned. At around 04:00 pm local time, a bomb targeted the Sayed Ul-Shuhada High School as the female students were being let out for Iftar on the last Saturday of Ramadan 2021. Initial reports following the powerful bomb blast stated a suicide bomber rammed the entrance of the school. Other reports stated it was a suicide bomber who detonated his vest; yet other accounts purport a coordinated attack by multiple people. More than one explosion was heard. At least 60 people were killed and another 52 people injured, mostly young female students. Though Sayed Ul-Shuhada High School teaches both male and female students, they operate in shifts. Male students attend the school in the mornings; female attend school in the afternoon. The timing was clearly intended to kill the female students. Taliban (IEA) have denied being any part of the attack; Islamic State Khurasan (ISK) chatter is silent on Rocket Chat and Telegram. TRAC also notes that as the US withdraws, disparate interest groups in Afghanistan may stage high-profile attacks to pressure a policy reversal.
Images (Above): Scene in Kabul following bombing on mostly young female students.
Images: (Above) Screenshots of video showing arrests of MKU members in their apartments. The video provided by the FSB
TRAC INSIGHT: White Lives Matter (#WLM) Telegram Network Grows to 89 Channels; Sticker Drive & Marches Scheduled for 08 May 2021 Across the World
In mid-April, TRAC Analyst Cat Cooper began monitoring a proposed new series of White Lives Matter marches circulating again on Telegram. Undaunted by the previous underwhelming performance of the WLM rallies on 11 April, the White Lives Matter (WLM) Telegram network began to grow. Even Telegram channels, such as The Proud Goys, (the Proud Boy spin-off faction), circulated information on how to organize to protest. Unlike the previous Telegram network that was based on urban cities, the new much larger network is based on regional areas, such as individual US states and entire nations in Europe. South America is just one region, despite the many nations on the continent, suggesting the support there is limited. Like the previous WLM protest plans, OpSec is discussed, but gussied up with a flashy instructional poster. It is unclear what is exactly planned for 08 May, some suggest that banners and sticker campaigns would occur; others suggest protest rallies. The main grievance for the proposed rallies is based on the theory of 'white genocide.' Notable is the WLM Telegram network's structure that has grown leaps and bounds in the last few months. In March, the network was 31 channels, with only three based in Europe. Asof 05 May, there are at least 34 European channels in the network as well as Canada, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and one South American channel. Still the largest contingent of the network remains in the United States, with all 50 US states represented. A sampling of the WLM channel network, most of the European ones have limited subscribers in the low tens, some in single digits; many of the channels within the United States have subscribers in the 100s. What is of concern are the number of views that some of the posts have received as well as the number of other Telegram channels outside the WLM Telegram network circulating the news of the proposed event. One of the more popular post received at least 14K views since it circulated.
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