Weekly Analyst Review
BOTTOM LINE UP FRONT: TRAC this week notes the addition of Abu Ubaydah Yusuf al-Anabi in the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Diplomatic Security's "Rewards for Justice Program." The initiative pegs al-Anabi as being the leader of al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and offers $7 million dollars for information leading to his being brought to "justice." An Algerian citizen, al-Anabi (who is also known by the aliases Abou Obeida Youssef al-Annabi or Yazid Mubarak), was reported to have assumed leadership of AQIM in November 2020. Our previous analysis and data collected on al-Anabi included his work heading AQIM's adept media activities and later leadership position on the Shura Council. The Rewards for Justice program was launched in 1984 by the Department of State and is widely credited with helping to lead to the arrest of Ramzi Yousef who was convicted in the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993. In its announcement, the Rewards for Justice Program states that al-Anabi was first declared a "Specially Designated Global Terrorist" on 09 September 2015. TRAC first detected RFJ announcement (screenshot above) on Twitter. It specifically requests that anyone with information to contact the program on Signal, WhatsApp, or Telegram.
Screenshots above: various images including in May's IS roll-up on TRAC.
TRAC Insight: Overview of Islamic State Global Operations for May 2021 (End of Ramadan, ISWA and Boko Haram, and the Ongoing Economic War in Afghanistan)
As he does every month, TRAC Senior Analyst Daniel Lebowitz provides a comprehensive roll-up of global Islamic State Activity. For May, Lebowitz documents 194 attacks claimed by IS across the globe through its official media branch. The Khurasan (Afghanistan and Pakistan) affiliate claimed the most operations outside of Iraq and Syria and furthered their 'economic war' against the Afghan Government and populace by targeting the electric grid and fuel shipments throughout the country. Looking across all affiliates worldwide, Lebowitz notes once again the heavy activity by the Islamic State of West Africa (ISWA). For instance on 19 May, the elusive Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau detonated his suicide vest rather than surrender to ISWA forces that located and penetrated his hideout in the Sambisa Forest in northeast Nigeria. Notably, the current Islamic State leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi ordered ISWA to kill Shekau for his crimes, confirming that Islamic State's central leadership has global reach and is active in planning strategies for its affiliates. Now, Islamic State West Africa will seek to mop up loyalists to Shekau who have not pledged allegiance to Albarnawi. Clashes between the holdouts and ISWA forces near Lake Chad and in the mountains near the Cameroon border have been reported. Claimed attacks against Nigerian Armed Forces and civilian targets during May were much lower than June (-10) as the internal clashes unfolded. Lebowitz also documents activity in other affiliates with his full report accessible on TRAC.
TRAC INCIDENT REPORT: Armed Men Attacked Soulhan Village Killing at Least 160 People, Yagha Province, Sahel Region, Northeastern Burkina Faso
In the early hours of 5 June, at 2 am local time, armed men on twenty motorcycles attacked Solhan village killing at least 160 people, including 20 children, in Yagha province, Sahel region, northeastern Burkina Faso. The attackers first targeted a Defence of the Motherland's (VDP) positions then went door to door shooting people inside their houses, before looting shops, setting several houses, vehicles, and the village market on fire and withdrawing at around 5 am. During the withdrawal, the assailants placed an IED on the bridge between Solhana and Sebba villages to prevent security forces from following them. The IED killed a woman and 2 children who were near the bridge. As a result of the attack, at least 700 people fled the village to neighbouring Sebba village. Despite that security forces are stationed 14 kms away from Solhan in Sebba village, the forces arrived two hours after the assailants' withdrawal. Solhan village is a gold mining site and home for thousands of gold miners. The assailants likely chose this village in search for gold and other valuables as well as to target the VDP position in the village.This is the deadliest attack in Burkina Faso since 2015. Solhan village lies in a joint area of operations between JNIM and Islamic State in Greater Sahara (ISGS) and although both are known to target villages in the area; JNIM has recently been targeting Defence of the Motherland (VDP) positions which makes it more likely to have carried out this attack.
Images (Above): JNIM denied its involvement in the attack (Bottom) (Source: Twitter): Dead bodies in coffins.
Images: (Above) Screenshots of scenes in the video.
(Right Wing Extremism / Video) The Ohio Confederation of Proud Boys Chapters Telegram Channel: Proud Boys Recruitment Video Released
On 1 June, The Ohio Confederation of the Proud Boys Chapters Telegram channel released a video evocative of a tribute video for the extreme right wing organization, The Proud Boys. The video evolves from club-like behavior to out and out violence. Beginning with small group photos at events and bars, the video transitions to video footage of physical altercations between members of the organization and counter-protestors. At the end of the video, footage of Proud Boys founder, Gavin McInnis' interview on CBS' 60 Minutes is shown despite his break from the group in 2018. Throughout the video the song "Proud of Your Boy" by Adam Jacobs and Alan Menken plays, the original namesake of the group according to McInnis who heard it at his daughter's school music recital. About halfway through the video, the lyrics change to reflect the extreme right ideology of the organization, incorporating demeaning rhetoric towards the far-left and lines such as "black and yellow shirts with our MAGA hats" to describe the organization's unofficial uniform. It is clear that the video is intended to recruit new members, as it draws attention to the brotherhood and masculinity that the organization can offer. The video attempts to extract on the same brazen behavior that attracted characters in the movie "Fight Club" to the lead character. Between the footage of members of the organization assaulting what appears to be members of leftist groups, and photos of the men sharing drinks at a bar, the video includes film of members delivering water to the homeless.
On Our Radar:
Our integrative platform helps organizations assess and manage the risk environment. TRACFusion combines the contextual power and data of TRAC’s award-winning online digital repository with direct encrypted chat access to an assigned analyst, we extend an organization’s collection capabilities and expertise. We become partners who are able to provide “red cell” thinking and “outside” perspective. Contact us for more information.
Attend Weekly Analyst Briefing
As many of our clients know, we invite one organization a week to sit in on our Analyst Briefing. The briefings take place at 10 AM US eastern time and last an hour. We meet virtually in TRAC's online conference center.
If your organization is interested in attending, please schedule with the link below. We look forward to having you join us and ask questions.
2021 Past Newsletters