ISIS West Africa’s tactical successes and support in Nigeria have given the group the ability to expand its influence throughout the Sahel in the coming months, threatening US economic interests in the region, including direct investment opportunities. ISIS West Africa, formed in 2016 following a split with Boko Haram, operates primarily in Nigeria and the Lake Chad region and maintains an estimated 5,000 fighters, according to open-source reporting.
Last week, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi released a new speech, “Give Glad Tidings to the Patient,” through the group’s official media outlet, the al-Furqan Foundation.
In 2018, ISIS will likely adjust its focus internally while targeting regional enemies, relying on sympathizers to remain loyal to the group, and encouraging members who left the group to return.
On August 18, ISIS claimed responsibility for two vehicle-ramming attacks that occurred last week in Barcelona and Cambrils, Spain, that killed 15 and injured over 100. These incidents are the seventh and eighth such attacks in Europe in 2017 and highlight the threat posed to public assembly areas.
On May 4, ISIS released the ninth edition of its online magazine, Rumiyah, which featured an article on detaining people during an attack—stating the purpose is “not to hold large numbers of the [disbelievers] hostage in order to negotiate demands…the objective is to create as much carnage and terror as possible.” The article also praises the attacks at the Bataclan theater in Paris and the Pulse nightclub in Orlando as examples for sympathizers to emulate.
A Point Pleasant (Ocean County) man faces federal terrorism charges after a family member notified law enforcement of his erratic behavior—underscoring the role friends, relatives, and close associates play in countering violence. According to authorities, Gregory Lepsky plotted to build a pressure-cooker bomb and detonate it in New York City to “kill as many people as possible” in support of ISIS.
On May 25, ISIS released a video calling on supporters to conduct assaults and justifying the killing of innocents during Ramadan, the most sacred month in Islam, which runs from May 27 to June 24. Historically, ISIS and its predecessor groups have called for an offensive campaign during this month.
On April 20, ISIS claimed responsibility for a shooting against law enforcement officers in Paris, killing one and injuring two, declaring the perpetrator a “fighter of the Islamic State.” This is the second ISIS strike this year against police officers in Europe. At this time, there are no known or credible threats to New Jersey.
On April 9, ISIS claimed responsibility for suicide bombings at Coptic Christian churches in two Egyptian cities, killing roughly 45 and injuring 106, during Palm Sunday services. At this time, there are no known or credible threats to the Coptic Christian community in New Jersey, which has one of the largest concentrations of Coptic Christians in the United States.
ISIS will likely continue refining its UAV capabilities and touting successes as proofs of concept for future operations. Since February, ISIS claims it has conducted approximately 80 UAV attacks in Iraq and Syria, killing approximately 40 and injuring 100. The UAVs are primarily quadcopters, which can be easily purchased online and customized to drop small explosive munitions.
The content of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s (ISIS) latest edition of its online English-language magazine Rumiyah—released on February 4—suggests the group continues to use propaganda to compensate for a spate of territorial and leadership losses since early 2015. Rumiyah 6 centers around three themes—targeting Turkey, local and regional “successes,” and the importance of martyrdom operations to strengthen global followers’ morale.
The terror threat from ISIS to New Jersey is moderate because of the group’s ability to attract and dispatch foreign fighters to and from Iraq and Syria, as well as to inspire individuals to plot and conduct attacks. Since 2015, ISIS supporters have issued several threats targeting law enforcement in New Jersey.
The attack on Monday at Ohio State University highlights the enduring influence of radical cleric Anwar al-Aulaqi, who was killed in a US airstrike in Yemen in 2011. Abdul Artan, who shortly before the Ohio State attack posted a statement on Facebook praising Aulaqi as “our hero,” drove his vehicle through a crowd and struck fellow students with a knife, injuring 11. Artan’s motives are still under investigation., and in the same Facebook post, he made references to ISIS and lone-wolf attacks.
Since 2015, foreign terrorist organizations, including al-Qa’ida affiliates and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), have directed and inspired attacks against the hotel industry in Africa, with the goal of depleting emergency responder resources and maximizing casualties. Hotels are often open to the public and host tourists, government officials, and entrepreneurs, as well as provide a conducive environment for meetings, conferences, and other special events.
Since May, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has tried to maintain operational and strategic momentum in the face of setbacks by recasting its propaganda, downplaying territorial losses, and emphasizing its potential long-term impact on the global jihad. Since 2015, the group lost approximately 30 percent of its territory and 120 leaders.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’s (ISIS) global attacks since last year are part of a deliberate strategy to provoke anti-Muslim rhetoric and actions in the West that create fissures between Muslims and local populations; ISIS aims to capitalize on the tension by casting itself as a defender of Muslims worldwide. ISIS’s predecessor organization, the Sunni-majority al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI), employed a similar approach in Iraq in 2006 when it destroyed a major Shia mosque in the country.