Middle East Regional Report Jun 23 – Jul 02 2016
Updates on the events of Jun.28: a terrorist attack was carried out at Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport by three terrorists in two locations. Full details are available in the downloadable report.
Jun.22: ISIS’s propaganda machine claimed that 157 Kurdish fighters had been killed in clashes with the Kurdish forces in Manbij. It also claimed that its operatives had shot down a UAV.
Jun.21: A car bomb exploded in a dirt road leading to the Syrian refugee camp located in the area of Rukban, NE Jordan. This is a military base near a camp of Syrian refugees based along the border. The attack killed six members of the Jordanian security forces and wounded 14 others. As a result, Jordan closed the border with Syria and declared the Iraqi border area a closed military zone.
Jun.26: Al-Amaq, ISIS’s media agency, reported that it was an ISIS operative who carried out the suicide attack. A video documenting it was released.
ISIS-affiliated organizations in southern Syria, such as the Al-Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade and the Islamic Muthanna Movement, are believed to be the perpetrators of this attack.
Fallujah: The campaign for the city of Fallujah, which began on May 22nd, came to an end this week (at least formally).
Jun.25: Baghdad’s Operations Command announced the liberation of ISIS’s last stronghold in Fallujah (the Al-Jawlan neighborhood in the NW part of the city) fell into the hands of the Iraqi forces, where the last ISIS operatives had barricaded themselves.
Jun.26: Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi, the Iraqi commander of the operation, announced that the city had been completely liberated, and at least 1,800 ISIS operatives were killed.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced the victory in Fallujah, and stated that the victory in Mosul was approaching, after which ISIS would be completely driven out of Iraqi territory.
Mosul: The Iraqi Army continued to cleanse the town of Qayyarah, located 63 km south of Mosul, from the presence of ISIS operatives. Their (declared) goal is to prepare this area as a launching point to takeback the city of Mosul. The military activities are receiving air support from the international coalition.
Rutba, Jun.27: ISIS carried out a failed attempt to retake the city of Rutba, near the Iraq-Syria-Jordan tri-border area. The city was taken over by the Iraqi Army on May.17. Iraqi police forces, with the support of Sunni tribal operatives, reportedly blocked an ISIS attack from the west. A car bomb driven by a suicide bomber was destroyed before it was activated. Several ISIS operatives were killed and the rest fled.
Sirte: The campaign to liberate the city of Sirte from ISIS continues and apparently it’s nearing its final stages. According to reports from this week, an area of about 10km2 in the city center is still under ISIS’s control. This area includes infrastructure facilities (the conference center and Ibn Sina Hospital).
Benghazi, Jun.22: Forces of General Khalifa Haftar, commander of the Libyan Army in western Libya, supporters the Tobruk government, launched a campaign to cleanse western Benghazi from the presence of jihadi organizations that control part of the city (ISIS and the Shura Council of the Revolutionaries in Benghazi).
This campaign was apparently inspired by two factors:
* the first is the success of the Government of National Accord forces in taking over large areas around Sirte;
* the second is the assessment that the jihadi organizations in the city of Benghazi, and ISIS in particular, are now in a weak position that should be exploited.
ISIS’s strongholds elsewhere in Libya, including the city of Benghazi, are still steadfast.
Jul.01: Five ISIS “commandos” armed with knives, cleavers, auto rifles, and hand grenades stormed into the Holey Artisan Bakery,
a restaurant frequented mostly by foreigners in Dhaka, taking hostages, torturing and slaughtering 24 people, and wounding 50 others.
Hostages were rounded up and asked to recite from the Quran to prove they were Muslim: those who could recite a verse or two were spared. The others were tortured.
Facing an enormous pressure in Iraq and Syria, while trying to cope with depleted ranks, ISIS is now turning its attention South, sponsoring rebel groups in Mount Sinai, Egypt, and trying to broaden its recruitment reach in North of Africa.
According to reports from the frontlines in Syria and Iraq, the group is recurring to daily suicide bombings against military columns (against the Iraqi army and the Kurdish Peshmerga forces), in an eventual and somewhat desperate tentative to slow down their advance. After losing Fallujah, the focus will now be centered in Mosul, where they still have a heavily fortified position.
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