A Tale of Two Terror Attacks and The New York Times

by Noah Beck
Special to IPT News
June 23, 2017

Last month’s suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester wasn’t the first time an Islamist terrorist targeted young people out for a night of fun. In 2001, a Hamas-affiliated terrorist blew himself up outside the Dolphinarium, a Tel Aviv nightclub, killing 21 Israelis, including 16 teenagers.

But news coverage of the two massacres was strikingly different, as the Manchester attack generated exponentially more attention. The New York Times, for example, offered a handful of small accounts about the Tel Aviv attack. But the Manchester bombing generated dozens of wire service and Times staff updates along with analysis stories and an editorial lamenting the horror of targeting children.

There are reasons why attacks in Europe are covered more exhaustively than those targeting Israelis. But as a result, Americans may not fully appreciate the depth of Palestinian violence because the near-daily examples of it are all but ignored.

The stark reporting contrast between the Manchester and Dolphinarium attacks reveals a change in how terrorism has been covered during the intervening 16 years. The Dolphinarium attack took place about three months before the September 11th attacks that dramatically increased media attention to terrorism.

A significant reporting gap continued after 9/11, however. Two 2002 shooting attacks within 12 days of each other prompted vastly different coverage by the New York Times. The July 4 shooting attack at Los Angeles International Airport, which claimed two lives, produced at least 13 articles. By contrast, nine people were murdered in a July 16 shooting and bombing attack against an Israeli bus going to the settlement of Immanuel. The Times devoted only one article to this slaughter.

The Times commits minimal attention to attacks on Israelis today. Last Friday’s fatal stabbing attack in Jerusalem received a scant 431-word article containing no images or references to “terror,” “terrorist,” or “terrorism.”

Worse, the newspaper ran a 243-word Associated Press article about the attack with a headline emphasizing the terrorists’ deaths, rather than their victim: “Palestinian Attackers Killed After Killing Israeli Officer.”

By contrast, the Times provided much more sympathetic coverage to an April terrorist attack in Paris that similarly claimed a police officer’s life. At 1,037 words, the article was almost three times as long, contained six photos of the attack scene, and referred six times to “terrorism” and thrice to “terrorist attack.”

An attack’s location plays a significant role in determining the extent of news coverage. Commentator Joe Concha calls this the “there versus here” phenomenon.

For example, the Times published eight articles about last November’s car ramming and stabbing attack at Ohio State University that killed no one, but injured 11 people. That included a profile of the suspected terrorist behind it. Deadlier attacks overseas generally receive far less coverage.

However, that “there versus here” explanation falters when comparing vehicular attacks in Israel with similar attacks in other non-US countries since Ohio State.

The March truck attack in Westminster that killed five people generated 20 articles. December’s Berlin Christmas market truck attack that killed 12 generated at least 50 articles.

By contrast, January’s truck attack in Jerusalem that killed four people generated just three articles and a mention in a daily news digest.

One reason European attacks receive more attention is that they raise new concerns about safety throughout the West, as the Islamic State pursues a campaign to hit soft targets wherever it can.

Another explanation may be that so many terrorist attacks in Israel have occurred over the last few decades that the Times has grown desensitized to them, no longer considering them as newsworthy.

Egyptian Copts, who have also suffered from Islamist terror for decades, may fall into the same unfortunate category. The attack last month in Minya, in which gunmen opened fire on Christian pilgrims, massacring 29, generated only four Times articles.

When the news media under-report terrorist attacks in places where they occur routinely, they do an injustice to victims in need of sympathy, while helping terrorists to defer the day that international leaders unite against them.

CAMERA, a nonprofit media watchdog, has compiled an extensive record of chronic anti-Israel coverage and commentary by the Times, and has launched billboard campaigns to expose the bias.

While some might point to the newspaper’s April decision to hire pro-Israel columnist Bret Stephens as a sign of growing balance on the issue, subsequent coverage led veteran Times critic Ira Stoll to argue that the move just gave the paper cover to intensify its anti-Israel slant. Stoll lists five Times op-eds, each of which “taken alone, would be totally outrageous and indefensible. The onslaught of all five of them, in six weeks, constitutes an outbreak of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish hostility at the Times.”

The Dolphinarium attack, one of Israel’s deadliest suicide bombings, marked its 16th anniversary on June 1. While it’s too late for the Times to give due coverage to the 16 teens and five adults who were slaughtered, the paper conceded the parallels between their fate and that of the Manchester victims, by running this op-ed by a survivor of the Dolphinarium massacre expressing empathy for those affected by the Ariana Grande attack.

However, when the Times published its May 23 editorial on the Manchester attack, it failed to mention the Dolphinarium attack, and thereby omitted the suicide bombing most similar to the Manchester attack in its targeting of children. The editorial duly notes how terrorists have shattered innocent lives, listing attacks in three European cities, but somehow forgets that Islamists have taken far more lives of Israelis “simply out enjoying themselves” than of all Islamist terror victims in Europe combined.

At least 1,600 Israelis have been killed in terrorist attacks since the 1993 Oslo accords that were intended to foster Israeli-Palestinian peace. How many more Israeli casualties are needed before the New York Times starts to cover them as they would European victims?

Noah Beck is the author of The Last Israelis, an apocalyptic novel about Iranian nukes and other geopolitical issues in the Middle East.

***

How to stop homegrown terrorists before they strike

Salman Abedi

New York Post, by Paul Sperry, May 27, 2017:

Manchester suicide bomber Salman Abedi was on the radar of British authorities as a Muslim extremist, but they failed to stop him before he massacred girls at a pop concert. It’s a recurring problem on both sides of the pond. US authorities also keep missing “known wolves” who were under suspicion before they attacked.

This was true of the Chelsea bomber and the Orlando nightclub shooter and one of the Boston bombers before him. Cases were opened and then, tragically, closed.

In fact, according to terrorism analyst Patrick Poole, at least 12 of the 14 Islamic terrorists who carried out attacks in the US during the Obama years had been previously investigated on extremism fears.

But authorities say don’t blame them. They say their hands are tied by official guidelines that restrict how long they can leave a case open without convincing a court there’s evidence of a crime.

If FBI agents can’t advance a case within six months, they’re obligated to close it, though they can reopen it if they obtain new information, such as suspicious changes in a suspect’s behavior, associations and travel.

Problem is, nothing’s formally ringing alarm bells within the FBI when a suspect does something that should trigger a reopening of a case, such as overseas travel to a jihadi hotspot — and this creates dangerous gaps in the monitoring of suspects.

“The DIOG (Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide) should be revisited to address this, allowing them to set trip wires to alert them to such changes,” former assistant FBI director Ron Hosko told The Post.

Rules also limit how aggressively agents can profile Muslim suspects and infiltrate their places of worship, where many of them are radicalized. Law-enforcement officials agree that having eyes and ears inside mosques is key to taking down jihadists before they go operational.

The NYPD had great success penetrating radical mosques before Muslim groups sued and Mayor de Blasio agreed to shut down such covert operations.

The FBI even joined one successful sting involving a Newburgh mosque. Intelligence found the mosque was creating an environment for radicalization, so the FBI planted an undercover informant inside. The operation led to the arrest of four Muslim members before they could act on plans to bomb synagogues and shoot down military planes.

The key was being proactive. “If they had waited for the mosque clergy to report any suspicious behavior, the investigation would have failed and the terrorists would have been successful,” said Patrick Dunleavy, former deputy inspector general of the New York State prisons’ criminal intelligence division, who also worked with the NYPD’s intelligence division for several years.

Officials say trusting imams to root out terrorists rarely bears fruit.

The latest example is the cleric of the Manchester mosque Abedi attended. He maintains he argued with Abedi about his extremist views, including his support of ISIS. Yet he failed to report him to police or even kick him out of his mosque.

“There is a paucity of really good sources even among the respected Muslim community leadership,” retired FBI official I.C. Smith said.

Islamic centers are a necessary target of investigation, because too many of them act as recruiting stations for jihadists, even in America, asserts former CIA officer Clare Lopez, who heads research at the Washington-based Center for Security Policy.

“Mosques here are no different than mosques in Manchester or Molenbeek [Brussels],” she said. Many “are recruitment and training centers” and virtually all share “active hostilities against the US government and US law.”

The number of mosques in the US has nearly doubled over the past decade to more than 2,100, with the heaviest concentrations in Detroit, the New York-New Jersey area, Washington, DC, and Minneapolis, roughly in that order. Areas with large numbers of mosques tend to produce more terrorism suspects. It’s no coincidence that more people from the Detroit area are on the federal terror watch list than from any other American city except New York.

Hosko called such isolated Muslim enclaves “bubbling cauldrons that are more difficult for law enforcement to penetrate.”

“They need cooperation within mosques,” he added. Only, “too many of these killers are seen by family and friends ticking, and no one acts.”

Terrorists don’t go from thought to action overnight. It’s a process, one that’s steeped in Islamic doctrine. And there are identifiable steps and signposts along the way, but authorities aren’t trained to see them, mainly because Muslim-rights groups have convinced politicians to shut down that critical training.

“The problem is our FBI, Homeland Security and local law enforcement are not trained to recognize what a jihadi is, and what a jihadi looks like and sounds like and when to go on high alert because he’s about to go operational,” Lopez said.

Abedi displayed outward signs of radicalization. He is said to have become increasingly religious and interested in jihadist groups. Neighbors say he was chanting Islamic prayers weeks before the massacre. Also, friends say he stopped smoking pot and last year grew an Islamic beard and went to his mosque more frequently to pray — just like the Boston bombers, who also became more radical as they got more religious.

“Evidence exists to demonstrate that a greater level of adherence to Islamic law correlates to a greater likelihood of violence by that individual,” former FBI Agent John Guandolo said.

“If a Sharia-adherent Muslim is under investigation and then surveilled or seen at a strip club or bar, they may be planning to commit jihad in the immediate future and need to be seized immediately,” said Guandolo, whose Understanding the Threat LLC is the only government contractor in the country training local law enforcement in how to look for such red flags. He explains jihadists believe all sins are wiped away upon martyrdom.

He advises police to use simple charges — for traffic violations, fraud and domestic abuse — to obtain warrants for suspects who appear to be preparing for jihad. Unfortunately, manpower and budget constraints also hamper efforts to defuse human bombs in the Muslim community.

The FBI says it’s actively investigating more than 1,000 ISIS-related cases in all 50 states, plus more than 300 terrorism cases tied to refugees from Muslim countries.

“Let’s say you have 10 suspects in a small city that need to be watched. To watch them effectively, you have to monitor their social media and credit-card transactions in real time — 24/7/365 — and that requires three people working three shifts,” a US intelligence official told The Post. “The manpower demand adds up fast, and that’s expensive.”

Sperry is a former Hoover Institution media fellow and author of “Infiltration: How Muslim Spies and Subversives Have Penetrated Washington.” Follow him on Twitter: @paulsperry_

Palm Sunday Bombing Underscores Depth of Egypt’s Anti-Christian Bigotry

by John Rossomando
IPT News
April 12, 2017

Suicide bombings of two Coptic churches in Egypt Sunday by ISIS terrorists should not be viewed in isolation. The bombings killed 44 people and injured 100 more, and mark the deadliest in a series of attacks targeting the country’s Christian minority.

ISIS warned of future attacks in December after another of its suicide bombers killed 25 worshipers in a chapel adjacent to the Coptic Pope’s cathedral in Cairo. In this case, one of the bombers struck just after the Coptic Pope finished celebrating Mass at the Coptic cathedral in Alexandria.

The attacks reflect a larger epidemic of anti-Christian bias and hate found among a sizeable portion of Egypt’s majority Muslim community. This bigotry remains entrenched despite President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi’s symbolic statements about reforming Islam and building a major Coptic church.

Many Islamists remain angry with the Coptic community for supporting al-Sisi after the 2013 ouster of President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party after a year in power.

“The Minority Copt’s (sic) Of Egypt Should Never Have joined Sisi Against The Sunni’s of Egypt Now They Are Paying The price! No End Soon Either,” an ISIS supporter identified as @HaqqRevolution wrote on Twitter.

Last month, ISIS’s Al-Naba newsletter vowed that attacks against the Copts would intensify unless they convert to Islam or pay the Quranic tax known as jizyah. Al-Naba also attacked the Copts for supporting al-Sisi.

Al-Azhar University, Sunni Islam’s most prestigious institution, spews anti-Christian statements and fatwas that label Christians as heretics. Al-Azhar distributed a free book in June 2015 describing Christianity as a “failed religion,” and suggested that the Bible contains “seeds of weakness.”

Building churches is a crime under Al-Azhar’s curriculum which also suggests that churches should be barred in Muslim countries.

“Hence, it is a mistake to say that the attacks currently taking place against Copts in Minya and elsewhere are the acts of individuals [and not part of a larger phenomenon]. [Al-Azhar] students will continue to study until they attain a certificate or a license to preach at a mosque, and then they will spread what they learned among the worshipers,” Egyptian researcher Ahmad Abdu Maher wrote last August.

Much of the anti-Coptic hatred found among Egyptian children stems from school lessons that say “Christians are infidels destined for Hell,” Al-Masry Al-Youm columnist Fathia Al-Dakhakhni wrote Feb. 26.

“Fanaticism in Egypt is a matter of education, so there is need to reform the education received by [the members of our] society, who are raised on the concept of discrimination against the other,” Al-Dakhakhni wrote. “[The change] must start in school – because fanaticism begins with religion classes that separate Muslims from Christians, so that the child discovers in his earliest formative years that there is an ‘other’ who is different and who must be shunned.”

Government forces either are unable or unwilling to protect civilians, especially Christians, from ISIS in Sinai.

A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report issued last month criticized Egyptian security forces’ response to ISIS attacks against the Copts. Over the past two months, 355 families have fled the northern Sinai city of Al-Arish, located near the border with Gaza and Israel. Of those, only 59 Coptic families have received housing.

After ISIS murdered seven Christians in northern Sinai, Coptic families who fled their homes described security forces as “apathetic,” the HRW report said.

Egyptian troops did nothing when ISIS established checkpoints hunting for Christians, according to a Daily Beast report. In one instance, ISIS fighters demanded to see a Christian man’s ID card to check his religion and to see if he had a wrist tattoo common among Coptic Christians.

“Convert, infidel, and we will spare your life,” the ISIS fighters said as they dragged him out of his vehicle. He refused. They shot him 14 times.

Christians in the Minya governorate, about three hours south of Cairo, face intimidation from terrorists, civil society and government alike, according to numerous news reports. Christians account for one-third of the 5 million people living in the Minya governorate. They have faced at least 77 sectarian attacks since the 2011 revolution that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak.

Radical Muslims known as Salafists burned several Christian homes in Minya on July 16.

Police arrested several suspects, but the court declined to prosecute them. Instead, they were let go after reconciling with their victims. HRW notes that such enforced reconciliations deprive the Christians of their rights and allow their attackers to evade justice.

While al-Sisi promises to build Egypt’s largest church, he ratified a church construction law in September giving governors latitude to deny building permits without the chance for appeal. HRW slammed the law, partly because it contains security provisions that could subject permitting decisions to the whims of violent mobs.

Muslim mobs destroyed four Coptic homes and six buildings including a nursery in the village of Koum al-Loufi, near Minya, in late June and mid-July, after Muslim neighbors claimed Christians intended to use them as churches, HRW notes.

In March 2016, an Egyptian court convicted four Christian teenagers and their teacher of contempt for making a video mocking ISIS that also appeared to mimic Muslim prayers. Three were sentenced to prison terms ranging from three to five years, while the fourth was sent to a juvenile detention facility.

In January, an Egyptian court dropped charges against Muslim men accused of beating 70-year-old Christian grandmother Soad Thabet and ripping her clothes off during a sectarian riot. Instead, the court prosecuted her son, Ashraf Abdo Attia, for adultery for an alleged affair with a Muslim neighbor’s wife. Mob anger over the alleged affair led to the assault against Thabet last May.

A Muslim mob burned and looted at least 80 Christian-owned buildings in Al-Beida, south of Cairo, last June. A rumor that a building under construction could be a church sparked the rampage. Al-Beida police were unwilling or unable to stop the violence.

Following Mohamed Morsi’s forced removal as Egypt’s president in 2013, Muslim Brotherhood supporters conducted a reign of terror against the Coptic community, burning at least 58 churches.

A mob of 1,000 Muslim Brotherhood supporters set fire to two churches in Minya after Egyptian security forces cleared Cairo’s Rabia Square in August 2013.

Muslim Brotherhood members torched the main Coptic church in the southern Egyptian city of Sohag. “And for the Church to adopt a war against Islam and Muslims is the worst crime. For every action is a reaction,” a memo posted on Facebook by a local branch of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) in Egypt’s Helwan governorate said.

Islamists previously raised an al-Qaida flag over the church.

Sunday’s attacks mark the continuation of a violence spree targeting Egypt’s minority Copts. Al-Sisi needs to bring the full power of the Egyptian state to bear in the cause of reforming society to end it and end the Copts’ second-class status.

***

Also see:

Analysis: Islamic State claims historically high number of suicide attacks in 2016

17-01-01-is-claims-107-martyrdom-operations-in-iraq-and-syria-in-dec-2016-768x545Long War Journal, by Thomas Joscelyn, January 3, 2017:

The Islamic State’s Amaq News Agency claims that the so-called caliphate carried out at least 1,141 “martyrdom operations” (suicide attacks) in Iraq, Syria and Libya in 2016. The overwhelming majority of these, 1,112 in all, were launched in Iraq and Syria.

On Jan. 1, Amaq posted an infographic (seen on the right) summarizing 107 “martyrdom operations” in Iraq and Syria for the month of Dec. 2016. As The Long War Journal repeatedly documented last year, Amaq produces a similar image each month. The total for all twelve months of 2016 is 1,141 suicide bombings, including 29 in Libya.

If Amaq’s figures are accurate, then the Islamic State set a new record high for suicide attacks in 2016. Indeed, the scale of such operations is incredible, even by the standards of modern jihadist organizations. For example, the Taliban claims that its members were responsible for just 32 “martyrdom” attacks during the same time frame.

17-01-03-1112-martyrdom-operations-carried-out-by-fighters-of-the-islamic-state-of-iraq-and-syria-in-2016-768x432Earlier today, Amaq also published an infographic (seen on the right) summarizing the group’s 1,112 “martyrdom operations” in Iraq and Syria. The majority of these, 761 (or 68 percent), were aimed at Iraqi government forces or Kurdish Peshmerga fighters. The infographics do not separately list those bombings that targeted Iranian-backed Shiite militias that fight alongside the Iraqi government.

Kurdish fighters from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which is affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), were the second most frequent target of the Islamic State’s “martyrs.” According to Amaq, 135 such operations targeted the PKK/YPG. Most of these took place in northern Syria, where the two sides have been engaged in heavy fighting. The PKK is a US-designated terrorist organization. The YPG has helped deliver some of the Islamic State’s biggest losses since 2014, including in Kobane.

Another 133 suicide bombers struck fighters loyal to Bashar al Assad’s regime in Syria. The two sides frequently clash in the Homs and Deir Ezzor provinces. The Islamic State also carried out high-profile “martyrdom” operations against the Syrian regime elsewhere in 2016 as well.

The remaining 83 “martyrs” were deployed against Turkey’s armed forces and allied rebel organizations in northern Syria. Turkey launched Operation Euphrates Shield in August and quickly claimed territory from the so-called caliphate along the border. Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s loyalists have been trying to stymie the Turkish-led offensive on Al Bab, a town in the northern part of Syria’s Aleppo province, and some of the bombings took place in the neighboring villages.

The Islamic State has become particularly adept at using vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs). According to Amaq, 797 of the 1,112 suicide attacks in Iraq and Syria in 2016 relied on VBIEDs. Another 18 were dual operations involving vehicles. Therefore, fully 73 percent of the bombings used VBIEDs. The remaining suicide operations used explosive belts (214), bomb vests (82), or a motor bike (1).

The Long War Journal has noticed a small discrepancy in Amaq’s reporting. The Islamic State’s propaganda arm listed suicide attacks in Libya on several of its monthly infographics in 2016, but stopped doing so in the latter third of the year. For instance, Amaq separately reported that tanks and various other vehicles belonging to General Khalifa Haftar’s men were destroyed in “a martyrdom operation in the customs zone west of Benghazi” on Dec. 18. However, this bombing is not listed on Amaq’s infographic for December (seen above). This means that some suicide attacks reported by Amaq in Libya, as well as elsewhere, are not included in the organization’s tallies. The infographic tallying 1,112 suicide attacks in 2016 excludes Libya entirely.

The battle for Mosul

In October, the US military, Iraqi government, Kurdish forces, Iranian-backed militias and others began an offensive to retake Mosul, which is located in Nineveh province. Mosul is one of the Islamic State’s two de facto capitals, so it is unsurprising that the group has dispatched an incredible number of suicide bombers in its defense of the city.

In fact, according to Amaq, 220 “martyrdom operations” were carried out during the first ten weeks of the battle for Mosul. The bombings during this ten week period, which began in mid-October and ended on Dec. 26, account for nearly 20 percent of the claimed suicide attacks in 2016 across Iraq and Syria combined.

The figure for the battle of Mosul is based on separate infographics produced by Amaq specifically for the fight in and around the city. The infographics for the first seven weeks of the battle for Mosul were previously reproduced by FDD’s Long War Journal. [See: “Islamic State defends Mosul with dozens of suicide bombers” and “Islamic State has claimed more than 1,000 suicide attacks thus far in 2016.”] The infographics for weeks eight through ten of the battle can be seen below.

Claiming suicide bombings at a historically high rate

As The Long War Journal has previously reported, the Islamic State claims to have carried out suicide bombings at a historically high rate in 2016.

Amaq’s infographics indicate that the group launched an average of 93 “martyrdom operations” in Iraq and Syria per month throughout the year. This figure does not include the suicide bombings in Libya and elsewhere, which would only make the average even higher.

According to open source data compiled by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), all terrorist organizations around the globe carried out 906 (76 per month) suicide attacks in 2015 and 739 (62 per month) in 2014. The year 2015 was the previous high water mark for suicide bombings. Many of those attacks in 2014 and 2015 were orchestrated by the Islamic State, but other organizations’ “martyrs” are included in the totals as well.

Therefore, the Islamic State’s figures suggest that the organization set a new record for suicide bombings in 2016 all by itself.

However, there are important caveats to keep in mind when assessing Amaq’s claims.

First, it is not possible to validate the total figures provided by Amaq. The Islamic State propaganda arm does post individual claims for many of the “martyrdom operations” tallied on its infographics. These statements indicate a location and target for each “martyr,” but this is not independent verification as it comes from the same source (Amaq). Furthermore, while open source reporting corroborates many such operations, it is unlikely that all of the suicide attacks are tracked in publicly-available sources. The fog of war often makes it difficult to document the precise details of bombings in chaotic war zones.

The identities of many of these attackers are not known. The Islamic State has used children or adolescents in at least some of its “martyrdom operations.” Such young people cannot be truly considered willing “martyrs.”

Some suicide bombers fail to reach their intended targets, but are probably included in Amaq’s totals anyway. Press reports have detailed how many Islamic State operatives fail to hit their mark prior to blowing themselves up. The US and its allies often destroy VBIEDs before they can do any damage.

It is also possible that Amaq exaggerates the efficacy of the group’s “martyrdom operations” by overstating the casualties caused and the total number of targets destroyed (including enemy vehicles) in the resulting explosions.

Most of the Islamic State’s suicide bombings are now defensive in nature, meaning that a large number of “martyrs” are being deployed as the caliphate’s grip on territory loosens. This can be seen in and around Mosul, north of Raqqa, Syria as well as in Sirte, Libya. All three cities are considered key to the Islamic State’s caliphate claim. As the group’s hold on Sirte began to slip during the summer of 2016, for example, the jihadists used a number of suicide bombers to slow their enemies’ approach. Eventually, Sirte fell to local Libyan forces backed by the US and its Western allies anyway. The same methods are being employed around Mosul and north of Raqqa.

It is also important to remember that suicide attacks are just one of the many tactics employed by the Islamic State.

Still, there is no question that Baghdadi’s men are relying on suicide bombers at a remarkable pace.

If Amaq’s data are accurate, the two months that witnessed the most suicide bombings by Baghdadi’s operation were October (120) and November (132). September saw the fewest suicide attacks with 53, according to Amaq.

Amaq News Agency’s infographics for weeks eight through ten of the battle for Mosul:

16-12-13-8b-eigth-week-of-the-battle-of-mosul-arabic-1-1024x576

16-12-21-9b-ninth-week-of-the-battle-of-mosul-1024x576

16-12-28-10b-the-tenth-week-of-the-battle-of-mosul-arabic-1024x576

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.

The Islamic State’s prolific ‘martyrdom’ machine

isis suicide attacksLONG WAR JOURNAL, BY | June 8, 2016:

The Islamic State claims to have executed 489 “martyrdom operations” in Iraq, Syria and Libya during the first five months of 2016. The figure comes from monthly data published by Amaq News Agency, a propaganda arm of the so-called caliphate that releases infographics summarizing the group’s suicide attacks.

Amaq’s most recent infographic (seen on the right) indicates that the jihadists executed 119 “martyrdom operations” in the month of May alone. If Amaq’s figures are accurate, then the Islamic State is launching suicide attacks at a historically high rate.

Earlier this month, for example, the State Department reported that there were 726 “suicide attacks” executed by all perpetrators around the globe in 2015. Therefore, all terrorist groups, including the Islamic State, carried out an average of 61 suicide bombings per month in 2015. The Islamic State nearly doubled that rate in May and has exceeded it by more than 20 attacks each month this year, according to Amaq’s infographics.

The data referenced by Foggy Bottom is compiled by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), which maintains an “unclassified event database compiled from information in open-source reports of terrorist attacks.”

According to START’s data, 2015 witnessed a record number of suicide bombings. But 2016 is currently on pace to eclipse that high-water mark.

While Amaq’s claims are difficult to independently verify, the statistics are reasonable given the scale of the Islamic State’s fighting. Abu Bakr al Baghdadi’s men routinely claim credit for simultaneous suicide bombings. The organization is taking on multiple adversaries in every country where it operates, making the use of suicide bombings (one of the jihadists’ most effective tactics) an especially important tool. For instance, the State Department noted that “[o]n average, suicide attacks in 2015 were 4.6 times as lethal as non-suicide attacks.”

A recent video from Al Hayat, another one of the Islamic State’s mouthpieces, trumpeted this “caliphate vs. the world” mentality. In “The Religion of Kufr Is One,” Al Hayat made it clear that Baghdadi’s enterprise is at war with virtually everyone else. The subtitle of the video, “The Islamic State and its methodology dealing with all apostate parties and nations of disbelief,” underscored the degree to which this is the group’s deliberate strategy.

The Islamic State’s prolific use of “martyrs” probably highlights both its strength and weakness. On the one hand, there are likely more people, predominately young men, willing to die for the jihadists’ cause today than ever. (It should also be noted that adolescents and even children have been used in suicide attacks.) On the other hand, most of the organization’s suicide attackers are being dispatched in areas where the “caliphate” is being challenged, including locations that were once under its control.

The Long War Journal assesses that Islamic State is being forced to deploy many of its “martyrs” because its territorial claims are being rolled back in Iraq, Syria and even Libya.

The Long War Journal has tallied the figures provided on Amaq’s infographics from January through May of 2016. The English-language versions of these infographics can be seen below.

The following observations have been culled from Amaq’s statistics.

Most of the Islamic State’s “martyrdom operations,” 303 of the 489 claimed (62 percent), have been carried out inside Iraq. Approximately half of these (152 of 303) have been launched in Anbar province, where the jihadists are engaged in fierce battles with Iraqi government forces and Iranian-backed Shiite militias for months. Salahuddin (52 suicide attacks), Nineveh (40), Baghdad (32), and Kirkuk (17) are the next most frequently targeted areas.

The Islamic State launched 175 suicide attacks in Syria (36 percent of the total) during the first five months of the year. Aleppo province (59) was hit most frequently, followed by Hasakah (33), Deir Ezzor (25), Homs (20) and Raqqa (14) provinces. Raqqa is, of course, the de facto capital of the Islamic State. Amaq’s data indicate that 12 of the 14 suicide attacks there this year were carried out in February.

The remaining 11 “martyrdom operations” took place in Libya. Interestingly, Amaq claimed only one suicide attack in Libya from January through April. But the infographic for May shows 10 such bombings. Nine of the 10 have been executed in and around Sirte, the group’s central base of operations in Libya. The Islamic State’s presence in Sirte has been under assault from multiple directions for weeks, with the jihadists losing their grip on some of the neighboring towns and key facilities. Thus, the group is likely attempting to stymie its rivals’ advances with the deployment of its suicide bombers.

Iraqi forces are the most frequent target of the Islamic State’s “martyrdom operations,” as they were hit 279 times from January through May. Bashar al Assad’s regime is the second most frequent target, with the Islamic State’s suicide bombers striking the Syrian government’s forces on 89 occasions. The remaining bombings struck “Kurdish units” (54), the “Syrian opposition” (31 times), the Peshmerga (25), Fajr Libya (10) and General Khalifa Haftar’s fighters in Libya (1).

Vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) are used more often than individual bombers strapped with explosives, according to Amaq. The infographics count 301 VBIEDs used in suicide attacks (62 percent of the total) as compared to 184 bombings using explosive belts, jackets and vests. The remaining four are listed as “dual operations.”

Assuming Amaq’s data are accurate, then the Islamic State’s “martyrdom” machine is setting a record pace for suicide operations.

See more

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for The Long War Journal.

Also see:

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