Category: Global

AL-SHABAAB IS RESURGING IN SOMALIA
By: On:

AL-SHABAAB IS RESURGING IN SOMALIA

Photo: Al Shabaab, source: VOA News

Jayakartapos, Al-Shabaab, the al-Qaeda-linked jihadist group in Somalia, is resurging again and demonstrating its ability to launch attacks with impunity. In late December 2019, Shabaab detonated an explosives-laden truck at a busy intersection in Mogadishu, killing 79 people and injuring 149 more. The attack drew comparisons to a double truck bombing that occurred in October 2017, which resulted in the deaths of nearly 600 civilians. Somali forces are currently slated to assume responsibility for security in May, when troops from the African Union are scheduled to depart. Many close observers of the situation in Somalia are concerned that this could further destabilize the country. In addition to the African Union peacekeeping operation, the United States has several hundred Special Operations Forces (SOF), known for their elite special training capabilities, engaged in the fight against Shabaab.

Since March 2017, al-Shabaab has launched close to 900 attacks on civilians and hundreds more against U.S., Somali, and Kenyan troops. Its strength has ebbed and flowed over the past decade and a half, weathering a string of territorial losses, defections, and the killing of several high-profile leaders. Yet on balance, the group has proved remarkably resilient, even in the face of an intensified campaign of U.S. air strikes against its fighters and facilities. In 2019, the Pentagon carried out 60 drone strikes in Somalia, with the lion’s share directed against al-Shabaab; the remaining strikes targeted elements of the so-called Islamic State in Somalia. IS in Somalia is relegated to the Puntland region in the northeast of the country and is thought to number in the low hundreds in terms of overall fighters. Al-Shabaab remains, by far, the dominant jihadist group in Somalia and has consistently sought to prevent IS from expanding its operations.

Al-Shabaab controls vast swaths of territory throughout rural parts of Somalia in the country’s south and central areas, while launching attacks against the capital of Mogadishu. Shabaab raises money through extorting civilians and businessmen in areas where it maintains influence. Its involvement in the illicit economy also extends to taxing agricultural produce and criminal activities centered around the port in Mogadishu. This steady stream of income has facilitated the group’s ability to manufacture explosives, which in turn explains its penchant for devastating terrorist attacks featuring the use of vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs). Al-Shabaab maintains a vast intelligence apparatus throughout Somalia and is widely rumored to have penetrated Somali government institutions. Somalia, and indeed the entire Horn of Africa, has emerged as an arena for competition between countries in the broader region, with Gulf nations backing favored factions and supplying them with weapons, equipment, and training. As far back as 2012, the United Arab Emirates deployed commandos to Somalia to take part in counter-piracy operations and help establish commercial ports and military bases throughout the Gulf of Aden and the broader region.

Militants have demonstrated a proven ability to project power beyond Somalia and into Kenya, where a Shabaab attack recently killed an American soldier, two private contractors and destroyed six aircraft. The attack on Manda Bay airfield is just the latest in a series of strikes by Shabaab in Kenya, where militants have previously launched attacks against shopping malls, hotels, universities, and transportation infrastructure. Poor governance has plagued Somalia for decades. Porous borders, weak security forces, and high levelsy of corruption contribute to a sense of lawlessness and state failure. An ongoing rift between the Somali central government and federal states over electoral processes has stymied efforts at government reform. Just as the Taliban has done in Afghanistan and the Islamic State in parts of Syria and Iraq, al-Shabaab has filled the power vacuum and played a critical function by mediating disputes and dispensing its form own draconian, yet efficient, of justice. This has conferred a sense of legitimacy on the group among segments of the population, despite its relentless campaign of attacking civilians (TSC)

IRAN MISSILE ATTACK WAS SUCCESSFULLY DID
By: On:

IRAN MISSILE ATTACK WAS SUCCESSFULLY DID

Photo: Ilustration, source: Pakistan Today

Jayakartapos, Several US service members were injured during last week’s Iranian missile attack on Al-Asad airbase in Iraq despite the Pentagon initially saying that no casualties had taken place.

“While no U.S. service members were killed in the Jan. 8 Iranian attack on Al Asad Air base, several were treated for concussion symptoms from the blast and are still being assessed,” the US-led military coalition fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

A US military official told CNN that 11 service members had been injured in the attack, which was launched in retaliation for the US airstrikes that had killed Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani the previous week. Defense One was first to report on the injured service members.

Following the attack the Pentagon said that no casualties had resulted from the 16 missiles fired by Iran. The US military defines a casualty as either an injury or fatality involving personnel.

Asked about the apparent discrepancy, a Defense official told CNN, “That was the commander’s assessment at the time. Symptoms emerged days after the fact, and they were treated out of an abundance of caution.”

After this story published, Capt. Bill Urban — the spokesperson for US Central Command, which oversees troops in the Middle East — said the military had learned after the attack that 11 individuals were injured — eight were transported to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany and three were sent to Camp Arifjan in Kuwait for “follow-on screening.” Last week, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper had said the initial assessment found only damage to property.

The news of the injuries come after Iran fired at two Iraqi bases housing US troops in retaliation for Soleimani’s killing in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad. The administration sought to cast its strike on Soleimani as an attempt to de-escalate tensions with Iran, but Tehran has described it as an “act of war” and “state terrorism.” Soleimani had been the second most powerful official in the country.

US officials have offered differing accounts of what they see as the motivations behind Iran’s attack. Vice President Mike Pence said last week that the administration believes the strikes “were intended to kill Americans,” and Army Gen Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he believed that the attacks “were intended to cause structural damage, destroy vehicles and equipment and aircraft, and to kill personnel.”

But a growing belief emerged among administration officials last week that Iran had deliberately missed areas populated by Americans. Multiple administration officials told CNN that Iran could have directed its missiles to areas populated by Americans, but intentionally did not. And those officials said Iran may have chosen to send a message rather than take action significant enough to provoke a substantial US military response, a possible signal the Trump administration was looking for a rationale to calm the tensions.

Iraq did receive a warning that the strike was coming and was able to take “necessary precautions,” according to a statement from Iraq’s Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi. A US defense official said that Iraq, in turn, warned the United States.

However, Pentagon officials have said they received no such warnings from the Iraqis but that the US was able to detect the attack in enough time to alert US forces on the ground.

Iran’s UN ambassador said last Friday that the Iraqi bases housing US troops had been primarily selected to demonstrate target accuracy, not to kill Americans, disputing public claims made by top Trump administration officials (https://edition.cnn.com/2020/01/16/politics/service-members-injured-iran-strike/index.html).

Theoritically, both Iran and US were denied their opposant purpose is a part of propaganda and counter propaganda, said an international analyst, Tony Priyono in Jakarta, because during war period maintaining moral combat must be done, because the failure of maintaining moral combat is the first steps to defeat during the war.

“Actually, the US will face tragic and erractic attacks which will be launched by Iran’s proxies actors. The US must be recounted about the Iran’s military capacity to launch their deadly attacks on several US’s interest mainly in Iraq, Suriah, Saudi Arabia, UAE and other Middle East countries,” Tony further explained (Red).

ISLAMIC STATE MASSACRE IN NIGER LATEST IN SERIES OF MAJOR ATTACKS IN SAHEL
By: On:

ISLAMIC STATE MASSACRE IN NIGER LATEST IN SERIES OF MAJOR ATTACKS IN SAHEL

Photo: Islamic State, source: CBC

 

Jayakartapos, In one of the most brutal and lethal attacks in recent memory, the Islamic State in Greater Sahara (ISGS) raided a military barracks in Inates, Niger last week, killing more than 70 soldiers.

Many others were injured or remain missing. This was not only a devastating attack for Niger, but also represented a major warning for two of Niger’s neighbors also combatting ISGS—Burkina Faso and Mali. In the attack in Inates, ISGS deployed at least two vehicle-borne suicide bombers and fired dozens of mortar shells toward the military base. Dozens of fighters on motorcycles then stormed the base and massacred soldiers. ISGS immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, albeit in the name of Nigeria-based Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP, aka ‘Boko Haram’), which has subsumed ISGS in the Islamic State’s organizational structure. ISGS also released a video several days after the attack of its fighters summarily executing three captured soldiers.

What makes this latest attack particularly disconcerting is that on July 2, ISGS also attacked this same base using similar tactics. That previous attack was also deadly, with 20 Nigerien soldiers killed—around 100 Nigerien soldiers have been killed in the last six months in Inates alone.

The Inates attack is just one in a steady progression of terrorist incidents. In November, ISGS attacked another military base in Indelimane, Mali and killed more than 50 soldiers. ISGS released a video of that attack showing fighters convening before the attack and then riding on motorcycles toward the base, where they massacred the soldiers. Astute observers noted the Nigerian army camouflage worn by one of the fighters in the video, suggesting ISWAP’s claims of ISGS attacks are not the only form of cooperation between the groups—it appears that personnel and equipment are also being transferred. This could be occurring as a result of ISWAP’s shifting cells from northeastern Nigeria to northwestern Nigeria, which borders Niger and is only around 300 hundred miles from the Malian border. Inates and Indelimane are also in strategic locations, both straddling the borders of Mali and Niger. It is certain that ISGS fighters regularly cross these borders both before and after carrying out attacks and venture into Burkina Faso, where ISGS attacks have also escalated in 2019. ISGS has even entered Beninese territory one time in 2019 when it kidnapped two foreign tourists and killed their tour guide, although a special forces operation later led to the two tourists’ rescue.

As a regional security guarantor, France would normally be expected to react to these ISGS attacks by further strengthening security collaboration with Mali and Niger. However, French military morale may be lower now than in previous years. In November, two French Air Force helicopters collided in the air in Mali, leading to the deaths of 13 soldiers. This was the largest loss of French military lives in four decades. In what some regional observers viewed as an excessively haughty display, French President Macron subsequently ‘summoned’ West African heads of state to France for mid-December meetings where Macron is expected to raise the issue of ‘anti-French sentiment’ and threaten—but likely not follow through with—removing French forces from the region.

The al-Qaeda-loyal group known as Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM), or Group for the Supporters of Islam and Muslims, is also active throughout the Sahel. While JNIM has been a more consistent threat than ISGS, for the first time ISGS is now eclipsing JNIM in media attention as a result of its major attacks like those in Indelimane and Inates. It would not be surprising if JNIM seeks to outbid ISGS by conducting its own spectacular attacks in Niger, Mali, or Burkina Faso.

Such attacks could occur against international targets or military bases or even in Benin, Togo, or Ghana. JNIM’s brigade operating in Burkina Faso is already operating near the borders of those three countries.

Crossing the Burkina Faso border to launch an attack would allow JNIM to also take credit for expanding into yet another new country in West Africa.

Considering current trends, it is only a matter of time before JNIM or ISGS, or perhaps both, expand their presence into those littoral West African countries. Until then, both groups will continue to target military bases along the borders between Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso. Consequently, any semblance of state presence in certain border areas is diminishing, which contributes directly to paving the way for the jihadists’ realizing their longer term of objective of controlling territory without interference from the state (TSC).

DISINFORMATION AND TERRORISM
By: On:

DISINFORMATION AND TERRORISM

Photo: Ilustration, source: Warta Perang

 

 

Jayakartapos, Most of the discussions that take place around the concept of disinformation–false information spread deliberately to deceive–typically focus on the role of nation-states like Russia and China. But violent non-state actors, including terrorist groups, rely on disinformation as well, and some groups have developed fairly sophisticated disinformation capabilities. Their objectives can vary but are almost always some combination of spreading fear and terror, recruiting new followers to the cause, radicalizing individuals, and confusing and distracting public safety officials in order to sap finite resources. In Pakistan, there have been terrorist disinformation campaigns against polio vaccinations. There is an added danger that terrorist disinformation may contain malicious code, intended to infect the hard drives and networks of entities that access the material online.

As has been documented in the aftermath of deadly terrorist attacks, including the 2017 Manchester attack, ‘sock puppets,’ or online identities used for deception, were highly active in attempting to spread messages with an anti-Islam agenda. While in some cases the objective was to cause confusion, in others it was merely to exacerbate tensions in society, to the supposed benefit of those responsible for the disinformation. Disinformation can take many forms, including the use of manipulated images and videos, and digital engineering attacks, including ‘spoofing,’ ‘truthing,’ and ‘social proofing.’ Western countries have been slow to respond to the advent of disinformation, and when they have reacted, the measures put in place to inoculate against the corrosive effects of disinformation have mostly been ineffective and in some cases counterproductive. So-called counternarratives to push back against terrorist disinformation have been widely panned, with few successful examples of note.

The so-called Islamic State has relied significantly on photoshopped images intended to sow fear and confusion; images of terrorists transposed against backdrops of major Western cities, intended to suggest that an operation could be imminent, or merely to inspire lone actors to launch an attack.

The Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower have been used in IS images and propaganda in the past. Back in 2014, IS in Libya used social media to amplify disinformation that it had taken full control of Derna, a port city of 100,000 on the Mediterranean.

While IS did indeed capture some government buildings, it was far from full control of the city as a whole as the group boasted, a claim that was picked up and repeated by mainstream media outlets including CNN.

In 2017, the Islamic State claimed involvement in the horrific shooting in Las Vegas, NV, the single deadliest incident of mass murder on American soil, although the Federal Bureau of Investigation has since dismissed any involvement by the group. Analysts still debate why IS would make false assertions that Stephen Paddock, the assailant responsible for the Las Vegas attack, was a ‘soldier of the caliphate,’ particularly when the group had not been known to issue deliberately erroneous claims of responsibility.

Some speculated that the group was merely seeking to keep its name in the news cycle, especially as it suffered battlefield losses in the Levant. But it does make sense when viewed through the lens of disinformation, which deliberately attempts to confuse an adversary and divert precious resources and manpower to dealing with threats. In the case of Las Vegas, IS also spread fear and sought to have a devastating psychological impact on its target audience, an objective that has been greatly enhanced through the use of disinformation-related capabilities (TSC).

‘PSYCHOLOGICAL WARFARE’: IRAN DARES CANADA AND OTHERS TO SHOW ‘INTELLIGENCE’ THEY USED TO ACCUSE TEHRAN OF DOWNING UKRAINIAN JET
By: On:

‘PSYCHOLOGICAL WARFARE’: IRAN DARES CANADA AND OTHERS TO SHOW ‘INTELLIGENCE’ THEY USED TO ACCUSE TEHRAN OF DOWNING UKRAINIAN JET

Photo: Boeing 737 (Ilustration), source: Samchui

 

Jayakartapos, Some 176 people died after a Boeing 737 crashed on 8 January near Tehran shortly after takeoff. The incident occurred shortly after Iran targeted American facilities in Erbil and the Ayn al-Asad Air Base in Iraq.

An investigation into the deadly Boeing 737 crash that claimed the lives of 176 people is in full swing amid conflicting reports on what caused the tragedy.

Iran insists that the plane crash occurred due to a technical error. Several other nations, including the US, UK, and Canada (who lost nationals in the tragedy) are not ruling out the possibility of a missile attack.
Ukraine, whose citizens were also among the victims, says the reports that the plane was downed remain unconfirmed.

Tehran has dismissed claims that the crashed Ukrainian Boeing 737 was hit by an Iranian missile as “psychological warfare,” calling on countries that lost citizens in the crash to send representatives to join its probe.

“All these reports are a psychological warfare against Iran,” government spokesman Ali Rabiei said on Thursday. “All those countries whose citizens were aboard the plane can send representatives and we urge Boeing to send its representative to join the process of investigating the black box.”

Foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi has meanwhile called on Canadian PM Justin Trudeau to share the intelligence he has claimed to have from “multiple sources” that the plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile.

Trudeau’s claim follows statements from UK PM Boris Johnson that his government is “urgently looking into” reports that the plane was shot down by a missile and speculation from US President Donald Trump that he had “suspicions” that “somebody could have made a mistake.”

While Trump did not explicitly accuse Tehran of shooting down the plane, anonymous US officials have told media that it was “highly likely” Iranian air defenses brought it down. The Pentagon has not commented in an official capacity.

Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 crashed shortly after taking off from Tehran on its way to Kiev early Wednesday morning, killing all 176 passengers and crew members on board. Ukraine has sent investigators to Tehran and an inquiry is underway into what caused the crash.

Iran has welcomed all countries who lost citizens in the crash, as well as Boeing representatives, to take part in the investigation, and even stated it might enlist the help of French or Canadian experts to decode the data in the black boxes recovered from the wreckage, with the results being “published and publicized to the world.” However, it has flatly refused to hand the boxes over to the US, slamming the “illogical” rumors implicating Tehran in the wreck (Sources : www.sputniknews.com and www.rt.com)