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Global Islamism Monitor - No. 53

Edited by Ilan Berman and Jordan Hayley
July 18, 2018

Factionalism and infighting among jihadist groups in Syria is adding complexity to the country's ongoing civil war - and may represent a challenge to al-Qaeda's current leadership status in the war-torn country, as well as in other locales. "Recent months have witnessed ongoing internal rifts and conflicts among the factions identified with al-Qaeda in Syria," write Israeli experts Yoram Schweitzer, Miki Luzon and Aviad Mendelboim. At the center of these disputes are questions over the leadership of al-Qaeda's current chief, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who now faces a diversity of challenges to his legitimacy, from competing ideologues (like the Islamic State's Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi) to organizational restructuring, such as that undergone by the group once known as Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria.

The results are striking, Schweitzer and his colleagues say. "The al-Qaeda camp in Syria is in the throes of serious internal hostility that threatens its survival and plays into the hands of its enemies from all sides." This, in turn, "raises a question mark [over] the ability of al-Zawahiri and al-Qaeda to control what happens in arenas where their partners and allies are deployed," both in Syria and beyond. (
INSS Insight, June 14, 2018)


It has become common knowledge that radicals from Central Asia are heavily represented within the ranks of the Islamic State. In turn, the nation of Kyrgyzstan is the source of many of these extremists - and new government disclosures are revealing just how much. According to Kanjarbek Bakaev, the deputy head of Kyrgyzstan's Antiterrorist Center, an estimated 850 Kyrgyz citizens have joined ISIS in Syria in recent years. Bakaev's estimate, given to lawmakers in the country's capital, Bishkek, last month, raises the official tally of mobilized radicals considerably; Kyrgyz officials previously estimated that some 600 Kyrgyz nationals had become foreign fighters. Of the total, Bakaev said, some 150 are believed to have been killed in battle to date. (
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, June 28, 2018)


Afghanistan's Taliban movement, bolstered by new reinforcements from neighboring provinces, has escalated its struggle with the Islamic State for control of eastern Afghanistan. The Taliban is seeking to prevent the expansion of ISIS' foothold in the country, and the resulting upsurge in violence has displaced hundreds of civilians in Afghanistan's mountainous Kunar province. Dozens of fighters on both sides have reportedly been killed or captured in recent weeks, which have seen the Islamic State suffer "some setbacks," a member of the group has confirmed. But the group remains undaunted. "The reason behind the escalation of recent attacks from both sides is due to Islamic State's quick expansion and control of more Taliban areas in the region," the ISIS source said. "Islamic State will launch more attacks on the Taliban strongholds to capture more and more areas in order to expand the Islamic State in Khurasan." (Abu Dhabi
The National, July 15, 2018)


Half a decade after the military-led ouster of Islamist president Mohammed Morsi, the government of Abdel Fatah al-Sisi in Egypt is making quiet progress on its counterterrorism and security agendas. Stability in the Sinai, where the "Sinai Province" of the Islamic State remains a potent force, "is still the main stumbling block" in Cairo's security paradigm, writes Zvi Mazel of Tel Aviv University for the Jewish News Syndicate. However, recent months have seen a renewed counterterrorism offensive from the Sisi government, resulting in "hundreds" of terrorists killed and a "drastic drop in terror activities" by the group.

The Egyptian government has significantly improved its position vis-a-vis the Muslim Brotherhood as well. The Brotherhood today "remains a low-level threat," Mazel notes, but has largely been neutered as a strategic actor. It is "outlawed as a terror organization and thousands of its members arrested; its political party and affiliate organizations were dissolved, and all activity forbidden. Its offices and assets were seized, and a recent presidential decree allows the confiscation of the private assets of members who have been arrested and sentenced as soon as their sentence becomes final. Most of their leaders are in jail, facing charges of treason and violence against citizens." (
, July 15, 2018)