The following research is based on information gathered by Flashpoint analysts and data collections. For October’s report, click here.
ISIS operations in November were again dominated by Iraq, Afghanistan, and Nigeria—claims of responsibility in these countries comprise two-thirds of the overall total (139)—with surprise surges in Syria, Mozambique, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The total number of operations claimed by ISIS in Syria accelerated from 4 in September and 2 in October to 17 in November. Whether the product of an actual physical campaign on the ground, or merely a propaganda one, ISIS has recently been determined to reassert its presence in Syria.
Similarly, after long periods of silence from ISIS cells in northern Mozambique, there has been a sudden steady flow of claims of responsibility from Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado Province.
In Central Africa, suicide bombings in the Ugandan capital Kampala, with continued attacks near the Ugandan border, has pushed the Ugandan government into sending “hundreds” of its soldiers into eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in an effort at curbing ISIS activity.
ISIS targets by country
An examination of the overall number of individual attacks officially claimed by ISIS in November appears to show a sharp drop-off midway through the month for unexplained reasons. As with the recent surge of claims in Syria, it is difficult to ascertain whether this represents a shift in actual operational tempo, or whether it reflects challenges with the ISIS propaganda and communications infrastructure.
ISIS targets by city
The list of specific locations targeted most frequently in November was topped by Jalalabad (9%) and Kabul (7%) in Afghanistan, Iraq’s Al-Azim District (5%), Mozambique’s Mueda District (3%) and Macomia District (2%), Pakistan’s Peshawar (2%), and Somalia’s capital Mogadishu (2%).
Afghanistan and Pakistan
The significance of Afghanistan to global ISIS operations has only continued to rise since the U.S. military withdrawal and Taliban takeover in August.
ISIS claimed 29 individual attacks in Afghanistan for the period of November 2021—an increase of more than 10% over October’s number and nearly tying Iraq as the country with the most claimed ISIS attacks worldwide.
At least 83% of ISIS attacks in Afghanistan during November explicitly targeted rival Taliban militants. Although the lionshare of ISIS operations are still confined to the cities of Kabul and Jalalabad, the geographic range appears to be spreading out in the provinces—and across the border into Pakistan.
Pakistan was the location for at least 6 ISIS attacks in November across the northwestern part of the country, with a similar uptick in the contested Indian-administered city of Srinagar in Jammu Kashmir.
Iraq and Syria
Although it remains as the country with the most recorded individual ISIS attacks in October, the downward statistical trend in Iraq (cited in our report last month) has continued, with claimed ISIS operations on a steady decline over the past several months.
In July, ISIS claimed 65 attacks in Iraq; in August, there were 63; in September, there were 49; and, for October, there were only a total of 40. In November, ISIS claimed a total of 31 specific attacks—what would appear to be yet another significant step down in operational tempo.
Meanwhile, the total number of operations claimed by ISIS in Syria accelerated from 4 in September and 2 in October to 17 in November. Nearly a quarter of individually claimed ISIS attacks in Syria in November took place in the northeastern Hasakah Province. This is almost as many attacks as the combined total of official ISIS operations in Hasakah for the previous six-month period (May – October).
Officially claimed ISIS operations in Nigeria during November 2021 were evenly spread across a swath of Nigeria’s northeastern Borno State, including at least two alleged hostage-takings. Towns along the Nigerian borders with neighboring Niger and Cameroon, such as Mallamfatori, were once again targeted in coordinated attacks.
There was a slight decrease in the overall number of ISIS operations in Nigeria (25 versus 29 in October). However, as we predicted last month, the death of alleged ISWAP leader Abu Musab al-Barnawi and his alleged successor, Malam Bako, does not appear to have had any palpable impact on the group’s operations.
Central and Eastern Africa
Although there was a slight dip in the total number of individually claimed operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)—from 14 to 11—by Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) fighters affiliated with ISIS, the tempo has otherwise remained largely the same.
On November 16, ISIS claimed responsibility for coordinated suicide bombings in the Ugandan capital Kampala. The attacks killed at least three people and injured 33, and were also likely carried out by the ADF and claimed by ISIS as part of its Islamic State Central Africa Province (ISCAP). This comes only a few weeks after ISIS claimed responsibility for its first ever attacks in Uganda.
In response, on November 30, the Ugandan and DRC military launched artillery and airstrikes against ISCAF positions. A spokesman for the Congolese government explained in a Twitter post, “It was agreed after an assessment to continue in-depth operations by the special forces of the two countries to clear the positions of the terrorists concerned.”
Farther south in Africa, Mozambique has once again loomed large in ISIS propaganda and claims of responsibility. At least 14 such attacks allegedly took place in Mozambique during November—almost three times the total number of such attacks claimed in the previous six month period (May – October). The claimed operations have also expanded westward from Cabo Delgado Province into adjacent Niassa Province, near the border with Tanzania.
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