Weekly Analyst Review

BOTTOM LINE UPFRONT: The unprecedented number of National Guard called up to protect the U.S. Presidential Inauguration has created an unprecedented volume of chatter on Telegram, one of the primary platforms for extremists. According to TRAC's assessment, at least 25 million newcomers have appeared on Telegram in the last seven days. As we discussed in last week's Weekly Analyst Briefing, our analysts have detected that many of the most extreme Telegram channels have advocated shifting attention away from the heavily fortified areas such as Washington and state capitals to critical infrastructure and soft targets. In recent days, much of the online "roar" has contained conspiracy accusations regarding the more than 25,000 National Guard deployed in the National Capital Region. Major groups such as the Proud Boys suggest that Biden fears an insider attack from within the National Guard. Yet others, argue that the presence of the National Guard during a virtual Inauguration is a secret ploy from an administration plotting to put an end to Nationalism by labeling it ‘terrorism’ and swiftly take away Second Amendment rights. Still more think that the deep state will assassinate the already ‘frail and dying’ Joe Biden who will willingly die for the cause to lock up middle of the road conservative gun owners. Lastly, more conspiracist suggest that the National Guard are actually Chinese troops in disguise to stage a World War.
Top Incidents & Analysis
Images (Above): A hole punctured in a military helicopter in Kunduz, 15 January 2021; (middle)
Confiscated drone shown by Afghan forces; (below) The Taliban militant interacts with a commercial drone modified to drop munitions in Helmand province, (20 January 2020 via Twitter). Though the craft was allegedly confiscated from an unknown adversary, the type of UAV is readily available from Pakistan or China on the black market:
TRAC Insight: The Taliban/IEA and Weaponized Drones (UAVs) in Afghanistan
During a Taliban assault on Imam Sahib district in Kunduz that killed at least thirteen members of the security forces, two weaponized drones were observed dropping payloads on the 217 Pamir Army Corps, where helicopters and other materiel are housed. The weaponized UAVs level the playing field by damaging said Afghan military hardware; journalist Bilal Sarwary shared an image of a helicopter damaged by the drones at the Pamir Army Corps facility. Clearly there is something to the idea of weaponized UAVS being a 'poor man's Air Force.' Traditionally, the Afghan Taliban use drones (unmanned aerial vehicles/ UAVs) for aerial footage in propaganda films and to observe enemy positions, but the insurgents are rigging the devices for kinetic operations. Not unlike Islamic State, the Afghan Taliban are weaponizing commercial drones by arming the small craft with mortars or small IEDs. In November, four soldiers playing volleyball at the Kunduz governor's compound were killed by a mortar dropped from a drone, and in Logar province, a weaponized UAV dropped small explosives on an military outpost. Though the payloads cannot inflict damage similar to an SVBIED or magnetic IEDs, the new tactic of aerial bombings could instill fear and paranoia amongst the overstretched and war-weary security forces, and could theoretically cause troops to abandon their post prior to a ground assault. On 16 January 2021, the flying of drones near the Presidential Palace in Kabul was banned by the government due to the Taliban's new tactic. 
Islamic State Releases Newspaper "Al Naba" 269 (Assaults On PKK, PMU, Liwaa al-Quds, Afghan Police, Nigerian, Congolese & Egyptian Armies)
In the latest Naba, in the infographics section, Islamic State includes an infographic on the prison breaks that its soldiers carried out in Iraq. Interestingly, Islamic State didn't just add the breaks that its soldiers carried out under the banner of Islamic State but it also included those breaks that took place under the banner of al-Qaeda in Iraq. With the earliest attack in 2004 on Badush prison in Nineveh and the latest attacks in 2017 on Rutba police and al-liwaa al-Tamen prisons. On 18 October 2020, the Islamic state spokesman, Shaykh Abu Hamza al-Qurashi, praised the caliphate soldiers of Khurasan for freeing their brothers in Jalalabad's prison in August 2020 and called upon the soldiers of the Islamic state to follow the path of their brothers in Khurasan by attacking prisons, freeing their brothers and intensifying their operations. By 20 October 2020, just two days later, Islamic State Central Africa (ISCA) claimed responsibility for a prison break in Kangbayi Central Prison, freeing at least 1,346 inmates. The infographic in Naba #269 could mean that more prison breaks plans are already underway. 
Screenshot (above): Al Naba 269 - Nearly 70 Nigerian army elements killed and injured, and 28 of their vehicles damaged in violent attacks in Yobe and Borno, Wilayat West Africa
Images: (Top) Gunfire of clashes between HTS and IS heard in the vicinity of Kafr Takharem, Idlib (Below) Claim
TRAC Incident Report: Hayy'at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) Clashes With Islamic State In Kafr Takhaem and Sarmada, Idlib, Syria
On 12 January 2021, Hayy'at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) clashed with an Islamic State cell in Sarmada and Takharem. In Takharem, HTS clashed with Islamic State for nearly 5 hours, which led to the death of a HTS fighter and the injury of 5 more including a so-called 'officer' named "Abu Khalid al-Darkushi". In addition, HTS claimed to have killed one Islamic State fighter, another surrendered, and 2 others blew themselves up.
Moreover, Hayy'at Tahrir al-Sham claimed to have kidnapped 2 Islamic State fighters near Idlib. In Sarmada, it claimed to have killed another IS fighter and kidnapped another. HTS is mistrusted by locals and no matter how much 'security' they purport to provide the local population will perceive them as heavy handed. Known for frequently kidnapping or killing anyone who criticized HTS, locals reacted with distrust to Hayy'at Tahrir al-Sham's (HTS) security efforts over the day.
Most recently Hayy'at Tahrir al-Sham killed 2 civilians from the 'al-Ghanoum' family and their relatives seeking to avenge their deaths took HTS to court. (TRAC Editorial Note: It is unclear which court would hold trial against HTS, but it is more than likely the court would have been HTS affiliated.) However after a meeting with Hayy'at Tahrir al-Sham, the relatives were forced to withdraw their trial request in return for an undisclosed amount of money.
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