Update and Assessment: May 11, 2016
By The Editors
May 11, 2016
- Al Qaeda issued a call for Muslims to mobilize to fight in al Sham. Al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri urged Muslims to fight in Syria and for the factions in Syria to unify. Zawahiri described the Syrian uprising as the only one from the Arab Spring to have continued along the right path. He sought for Muslims to defend the gains made in Syria against other actors like Russia, Iran, and the West, and stated the objective of a governing entity establishing itself in the territory. Hamza bin Laden, Osama bin Laden’s son, echoed the call for mobilization. He also called on Muslims to unify in Iraq and Syria and for those who cannot travel to conduct lone-wolf attacks.
- A pro-Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS) cell attempted to weaponize anthrax and plan a mass-casualty attack similar to the 2013 Westgate Mall attack, according to Kenyan and Ugandan authorities. The cell’s ringleader may have communicated with ISIS militants in Libya and Syria, indicating an expansion of ISIS’s influence in East Africa. Governments seeking counterterrorism funding may also exaggerate ISIS’s presence, however.
- ISIS resumed a territorial growth strategy in Libya after planned offensives on its stronghold in Sirte stalled. ISIS militants seized strategically located towns from Misratan militias to the west of Sirte as part of efforts to expand its contiguous zone of control in central Libya. ISIS is also bolstered by the support of tribal leaders and elders, representing factions of a large tribal federation that has suffered since the fall of Qaddafi. These tribal leaders are aligning with ISIS against opponents in both the Libyan National Army bloc in the east and the Misratan bloc in the west in order to protect their political and economic interests. [See CTP’s backgrounder on forces in Libya and a forecast of ISIS’s courses of actions in Libya.]