Terrorismo yihadista

The al-Hol camp in Syria on June 2, 2019. (Alice Martins/FTWP)

The Islamic State, which seemed to be extinguished three years ago when its caliphate was crushed, is still smoldering red hot at a refugee camp here and a prison nearby. And the Syrian Kurdish militia that’s guarding the facilities says it badly needs help before there’s a new eruption.

The battle against ISIS, as the Islamic State is also known, is yesterday’s war, and it gets little public attention. But the danger of a resurgence was evident Wednesday when Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, the new commander of the U.S. Central Command, toured the two facilities in northeast Syria. He’s the first senior military official to inspect either place.…  Seguir leyendo »

Este es mi recuerdo de los acontecimientos que tuvieron lugar entre el 11 y el 15 de marzo de 2004, hace ya 18 años. Madrid quedó asolada por el mayor atentado terrorista de nuestra historia. El ataque dejó 192 muertos y más de mil heridos en las calles de la capital de España.

Todavía hoy, muchas personas no creen la versión oficial. Es decir, que Al Qaeda y una de sus franquicias marroquíes fueron los responsables de la masacre.

El efecto inmediato del atentado, aparte de la devastación humana, fue la caída del Gobierno del Partido Popular, que todavía presidía un José María Aznar al que iba a suceder probablemente, según todos los sondeos, Mariano Rajoy.…  Seguir leyendo »

A video image shows the building in Syria before the raid, (Defense Department/AP)

This month, a U.S. Special Forces mission targeted Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, the leader of the Islamic State. Al-Qurayshi reportedly detonated explosives during the raid, killing himself and members of his family.

His death follows previous U.S. raids that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. But what type of leader was al-Qurayshi — and what type of leader might succeed him?

The Islamic State leader was a relative unknown

Our research explains why these questions are critical when trying to gauge the impact on a terrorist group after its leader has died.…  Seguir leyendo »

Get the Children Out of ISIS Detention Camps

“I am scared I’ll die anytime,” the teenager said in his 11-second voice message. “Please help me.” He was a human shield for ISIS, one of about 150 foreign minors taken hostage in a prison in northeastern Syria last month. Even if he survived the siege, his prospects were bleak.

While the West has largely moved on three years after the fall of the so-called Caliphate, more than 7,000 foreign children remain trapped in de facto prison camps in Northeast Syria run reluctantly by the Kurdish-led Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria. (These children are from nearly 60 countries, including France, Tunisia and Britain — but the figure does not include the thousands of Iraqi and Syrian children also in the camps and prisons for ISIS fighters and their families.)…  Seguir leyendo »

Debris from a building destroyed in the aftermath of a counter-terrorism mission conducted by the U.S. Special Operations Forces are seen in Atmeh, Syria, 4 February 2022. Picture taken with a drone. REUTERS/Mahmoud Hassano

Who was the ISIS leader killed yesterday in north-western Syria?

Abdullah Qardash, an Iraqi national also known as Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Quraishi, became ISIS leader on 31 October 2019, one week after his predecessor, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was killed in a U.S. raid in Idlib province in north-western Syria. Qardash was a long-time jihadist veteran. He joined what was known as al-Qaeda in Iraq shortly after the 2003 U.S. invasion to fight the U.S.-led coalition forces and the new Iraqi government. Like several other future ISIS leaders, he was arrested for his role in the insurgency and spent time in the U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

People extinguish fire on cars caused by a bomb explosion near Parliament building in Kampala, Uganda, on November 16, 2021. - Two explosions hit Uganda's capital Kampala on November 16, 2021, injuring a number of people in what police termed an attack on Ivan Kabuye / AFP

What happened and who is allegedly involved?

On 16 November, a trio of suicide bombers targeted Kampala, Uganda’s capital city, one detonating his vest outside police headquarters and two more blowing themselves up near parliament. The attacks killed at least four other people, according to official reports, and wounded 37 more, 27 of whom were police officers. As the city reeled from the blasts, security forces hunted down a fourth bomber in north-western Kampala, shooting him before recovering his suicide vest. The police said they had recovered more explosive materials from a safe house the fourth attacker was using in a nearby suburb and were continuing to track other possible members of the “terror groups”.…  Seguir leyendo »

A screenshot of Abou Walid Al Sahraoui speaking in photograph from an undated propaganda aired by France24 television.

Who was Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahraoui?

Adnan Abu Walid al-Sahraoui was the nom de guerre of a prominent jihadist leader in the Sahel, Lehbib Ould Ali Ould Said Ould Yumani, who was born in 1973 in Laâyoune, Western Sahara. He spent part of his youth in Algeria, notably in the Tindouf refugee camps and at the University of Constantine, where he studied the social sciences. He was also reportedly a member of the Polisario Front, the political paramilitary movement that campaigns for Western Sahara’s independence, before joining jihadist insurgents in northern Mali around 2010.

As a high-ranking member of the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), in 2012 he took part in the conquest of vast territories in northern Mali, including several major towns, in particular Gao, where he was among the most important leaders during the city’s occupation.…  Seguir leyendo »

A screenshot of Abou Walid Al Sahraoui speaking in photograph from an undated propaganda aired by France24 television.

Qui était Adnan Abou Walid al-Sahraoui ?

Dirigeant jihadiste de premier plan au Sahel, Lehbib Ould Ali Ould Saïd Ould Joumani, qui avait pour nom de guerre Adnan Abou Walid al-Sahraoui, est né en 1973 à Laâyoune au Sahara occidental. Il a passé une partie de sa jeunesse en Algérie, notamment dans les camps de réfugiés de Tindouf et à l’université de Constantine, où il a étudié les sciences sociales. Il aurait été aussi membre du Front Polisario, le mouvement politico-militaire qui milite pour l’indépendance du Sahara occidental, avant de rejoindre le maquis jihadiste du nord du Mali vers 2010.

Cadre du Mouvement pour l’unicité et le jihad en Afrique de l’Ouest (MUJAO), il a participé, en 2012, à la conquête de vastes territoires du nord du Mali, dont plusieurs grandes villes, notamment Gao où il figurait parmi les dirigeants les plus importants de la ville lors de son occupation.…  Seguir leyendo »

Police officers patrol by the wreckage of a car at the scene of suicide car bomb attack that targeted the city's police commissioner in Mogadishu, on July 10. AFP via Getty Images

The Taliban’s swift capture of power in Afghanistan took the world by surprise and triggered considerable introspection in the West about a 20- year conflict waged at immense human and material cost. More broadly, the outcome raises serious questions about the viability of internationally supported state-building projects, especially in the absence of an inclusive political settlement. This experience has ramifications well beyond Afghanistan, but perhaps nowhere are the parallels as striking as in Somalia.

Somalia bears many similarities to Afghanistan. In both countries, an Islamist governance project took root after a lengthy period of conflict, only to be dislodged by outside powers within the context of the global war on terrorism (the United States in Afghanistan and Ethiopia in Somalia).…  Seguir leyendo »

Shiite Huthi rebels man a checkpoint at the southern entrance to the city of Sanaa 15 November 2014. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi

In early 2014, I found myself in the sparsely furnished front room of a nondescript breezeblock villa in Aden, a city in southern Yemen that was once one of the busiest ports in the world. My host was a man who once fought alongside Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and later helped what would become the local al-Qaeda franchise gain a foothold in Yemen.

He was recounting how, in 1993, a distant relative had arrived at his hideout in the mountains of Abyan, to Aden’s east. The visitor, a senior military official who like my host hailed from Abyan, had come from Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, with a message from President Ali Abdullah Saleh.…  Seguir leyendo »

U.S. Air Force ground crew secure weapons and other components of an MQ-9 Reaper drone after it returned from a mission, at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, 9 March 2016. REUTERS/Josh Smith

What’s new? The U.S. government is conducting a formal review of its counter-terrorism direct action operations – ie, those that involve kill or capture. But it is not clear that the review will shed light on key questions about the effectiveness of militarised counter-terrorism efforts or recommend major changes.

Why does it matter? The so-called global war on terror deserves greater oversight. Since the 11 September 2001 attacks, the U.S. has waged war upon numerous jihadist groups in a dozen or more countries. Decisions to change the conflict’s scope are often taken unilaterally and in secret by the executive branch.

What should be done?…  Seguir leyendo »

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo boards a plane at the King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 20 February 2020. Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Pool via REUTERS

Of the nineteen hijackers on the four planes that crashed into the north and south towers of the World Trade Centre, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania, all but two were from the Gulf states: fifteen from Saudi Arabia and two from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The attacks and their aftermath upset a status quo of smooth political, economic and security relations between the U.S. and its Gulf Arab partners. As the U.S. turned its overly ambitious gaze toward removing Saddam Hussein and advancing George W. Bush’s “freedom agenda”, it upended finely balanced regional dynamics, increased Gulf states’ sense of insecurity and spurred the slow erosion of their confidence in Washington’s steady support.…  Seguir leyendo »

Contrarrestar la amenaza islámica

Los talibanes son parte del movimiento mundial del islamismo radical. El movimiento contiene a muchos grupos diferentes, pero que comparten la misma ideología básica. En términos simples, sostiene que solo hay una interpretación verdadera de esa fe y que la sociedad, la política y la cultura solo deben responder a ella. El islamismo radical no solo cree en el islamismo —convertir a la religión islámica en una doctrina política— sino en justificar la lucha, por las armas de ser necesario, para lograrlo. Otros islamistas coinciden con los fines pero se abstienen de la violencia.

Este ideología inevitablemente entra en conflicto con las sociedades abiertas, modernas y culturalmente tolerantes.…  Seguir leyendo »

Foto de una conferencia de prensa en Afganistán en 1998 con Ayman al Zawahri (centro izquierda) y Osama bin Laden (centro), cerebro de los atentados del 11 de septiembre de 2001. (Foto/Archivo AP) (AP)

Hace 20 años, siete semanas después del 11 de septiembre, fui el último periodista en entrevistar a Osama bin Laden. Nos reunimos en Afganistán, en medio de la campaña de bombardeos de Estados Unidos. Bin Laden se jactó de haber tendido una trampa que acabaría humillando a Estados Unidos en Afganistán, tal como le había sucedido a la Unión Soviética. También predijo que Estados Unidos y los talibanes tendrían conversaciones.

Dos décadas después Bin Laden está muerto, pero esas predicciones se han hecho realidad. Y no fueron las únicas que se cumplieron.

Quizás los estadounidenses pueden tener algo de consuelo en el hecho de que lograron vengarse cuando lo mataron.…  Seguir leyendo »

Future federal air marshals participate in a shooting exercise in Egg Harbor Township, N.J., on March 29, 2017. (Astrid Riecken for The Washington Post)

Twenty years after the worst terrorist attack in history, there hasn’t been “another 9/11.” By one count, 107 people have been killed in jihadist attacks in the United States since Sept. 11, 2001, and nearly half of those were in one attack — the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting. Any deaths are tragic, but more Americans are dying of covid-19 every two hours than died of Islamist terrorism in the United States during the past 20 years.

You would think this counterterrorism success would be celebrated. Instead, on the 20th anniversary of 9/11, the “global war on terror” — as it was once called — is widely reviled.…  Seguir leyendo »

A man wearing an American flag shirt visits the Tribute In Lights in Lower Manhattan on September 11, 2021 in New York City. Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images.

It has been 20 years since the September 11 attacks, and ‘Islamist terrorism’ and the goal of countering it have become a useful framework for governments across the globe to justify foreign and domestic policies and serve geopolitical goals, especially in the context of the Middle East.

Governments around the world have found in the notion of Islamist terrorism a convenient way to present themselves as a force of good in the face of the ‘evil terrorists’ – and sometimes to justify pragmatic yet problematic behaviour.

For the West, Islamist terrorism became the greatest evil of them all in the Middle East, and countering it trumped many other foreign policy concerns in the region.…  Seguir leyendo »

A picture taken on 25 November 25 2017, shows the Rawda mosque, roughly 40 kilometres west of the North Sinai capital of El-Arish, after a gun and bombing attack. STR / AFP

In the sweep of events following the 11 September 2001 attacks, the low-level, intermittent jihadist insurgency in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula is understandably outside the spotlight. While posing a persistent threat to Egypt, Sinai militants have only occasionally attracted significant notice outside the country, usually following spectacular attacks on tourist or other civilian sites. To a degree, the scant attention is a function of isolation: the Egyptian state has made the northern Sinai, the primary theatre of violence, off limits to journalists and researchers.

Though lack of access has hindered understanding of Sinai events, Egypt’s experiences with Islamist militancy, the broad contours of which remain visible from a distance, can still offer insight into how the 9/11 attacks shaped U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

Cómo la ciudad de Nueva York puede recuperarse de nuevo

El futuro de la ciudad de Nueva York está en duda. Los barrios perdieron habitantes que se han mudado a los suburbios. Se han cerrado negocios. La gente está preocupada por la seguridad pública. Las familias lloran la pérdida de sus seres queridos.

Ese era el panorama en el otoño de 2001, después de que los terroristas destruyeron el World Trade Center y pusieron a la ciudad de rodillas. Y es el mismo panorama actual, con una pandemia que ha causado estragos y millones de personas que se preguntan una vez más si los días de gloria de esta ciudad son cosa del pasado.…  Seguir leyendo »

A Nigerian soldier patrols on the outskirts of the town of Damask in North East Nigeria on 25 April 2017. Florian PLAUCHEUR / AFP

Since mid-July, when the Taliban march toward the Afghan capital accelerated at an astonishing pace, the Somalia-based jihadist group Al-Shabaab’s media channels have covered little else. Not without reason. One of al-Qaeda’s wealthiest and most tenacious affiliates, Al-Shabaab doubtless hopes that it, too, can outwait the large international troop deployment that props up Somalia’s government and one day capture power throughout the country. Al-Shabaab’s enduring influence – it retains a capacity to levy taxes essentially unchallenged in as much as 80 per cent of the country – sums up a key lesson from two decades of the U.S.-led “war on terror” in Africa: the investment in military efforts to contain jihadism, in places where governments enjoy dismal levels of public credibility, and in situations where elites in distant capitals deliver few services to the people, has hardly helped row back the threat of jihadist militancy.…  Seguir leyendo »

Al Qaeda, entonces y ahora

Hace hoy 20 años, cuando tuvieron lugar los atentados del 11 de septiembre de 2001, hablar del yihadismo global y de su inherente amenaza terrorista era básicamente hablar de Al Qaeda. Era una organización con estructura unitaria que había sido fundada en 1988, en las postrimerías de la contienda que la invasión soviética desencadenó en Afganistán a lo largo de ese decenio, como matriz de un movimiento transnacional inspirado en las actitudes y creencias del salafismo yihadista. Esta ideología, una variante del salafismo de acuerdo con la cual el concepto islámico de yihad debe ser entendido exclusivamente en su acepción belicosa, justifica moral y utilitariamente el terrorismo con el objetivo último de instaurar un califato o suerte de imperio panislámico de orientación fundamentalista.…  Seguir leyendo »