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MENA Regional Brief

MENA Regional Brief as at 03 April 2015

Syria: Islamic State releases extremely detailed guide explaining how to travel to join the militant group in Syria

Islamic State militants published an extremely detailed, 50-page e-book with explicit instructions on how to travel to join the militant group in Syria, what to bring, and – most importantly – how to not raise suspicions in the process. Specifically in the guide is how to best avoid looking suspicious during airport security checks; in this section, the book cites and links to a wikileaks document, “Wikileaks: leaked CIA Manual Shows How Operatives Get Through Airport Security Without Blowing Their Cover.” Moreover, it also includes a list of social media accounts reportedly belonging to people who currently live in the Islamic State. At least several of the accounts, remained active and unsuspended at time of writing.

Analysis: The highly detailed guide is unlikely to have any immediate impact on the number of foreign nationals travelling to join the Islamic State in Syria; that said, the comprehensive approach and explicit instructions underscore the continued high level of commitment ISIS has to recruiting foreigners and assisting them in their travels. Moreover, by listing the social media accounts of jihadists already living under Islamic State rule – as a point of contact for those interested – the importance of cyber operations to monitor such communications is solidified.

Syria: Islamic States releases video showing female jihadist execute a Syrian soldier from Homs

In other news from the Islamic State, militants published a new execution video titled, “A message to the soldiers of Bashar.” In which a Syrian soldier reportedly from Homs is interrogated on camera and then shot dead by a female jihadist – whose own husband, according to the militant speaking – was reportedly killed by a Syrian military soldier. Afterward, the man is brutally dragged behind a truck, all the while the camera continues filming.

Analysis: Barbaric executions carried out by women and children and filmed by male militants is a form of psychological warfare meant to equally horrify those viewing the video footage and to humiliate the person being killed. In similar videos released in the recent term, ISIS militants openly vowed to have children continue carrying out executions of “spies.” As such, it is likely we will continue to see additional executions carried out by women and children in the near term.

Kenya: Death toll skyrockets in al-Shabaab attack targeting Christians at Garrisa University College

In what was an exceedingly well planned out attack, al-Shabaab gunmen ambushed the Garrisa University college, separating Christian students from Muslims, leading to the massacre of 147 people. Various reports indicated that the university had received apparently credible intelligence indicating an imminent threat but precautionary measures do not appear to have been taken. The death toll was more than double that of the Westgate shipping mall attack in which 67 people were killed in a siege on 21-24 September 2013 in Nairobi.

Analysis: The sophisticated nature of the assault and the fact that security forces were aware of a heightened risk of an attack presents a two-fold issue: the first is that it remains likely al-Shabaab will continue efforts to carry out mass-casualty attacks but ones that will allow them – for propaganda purposes – to assert they made a genuine effort to spare Muslims’ lives. As such, it cannot be ruled out that Westerners and Christian places of worship and/or cultural centres will be targeted in the near term. The second issue is that Kenya security officials clearly must reassess their protocol when credible intelligence, indicating a high likelihood of an attack, is intercepted. There is also a medium risk of demonstrations and possible unrest, in the near term, over the government’s perceived failure to thwart such a massive attack.

Detail and analysis has been provided by Global Risk Awareness – a global leader in Cyber Intelligence


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