MW Weekly: Rebels Attack Djiboutian Military; Islamic State Pakistan Province Infighting; ISIS Financing Network Emerges Using USDT
Rebel Attack on Djibouti Military Forces Highlights Country’s Security Challenges
An overlooked country with a seemingly outsized geographical importance compared to its actual size and profile in international affairs is Djibouti. And a recent incident in the country should raise alarms about potential threats to maritime security, the petroleum trade, and issues confronting the Horn of Africa.
Media outlets reported on October 8th that an attack took place against an army post in Garabtisan which is located in the Tadjourah Region. The fighting resulted in the deaths of seven Djibouti soldiers according to a presidential advisor. No figures on casualties among the attackers were reported. This incident was quickly condemned by the regional IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development) bloc.
According to a statement released by the Ministry of Defense, the “Armed FRUD” (Front for the Restoration of Unity and Democracy), which is considered to be a terrorist group by the local government, was blamed for the attack. The group was formed in 1991 with the goal of defending the interests of the Afar ethnic group against the Issas, the other major ethnic group in Djibouti. However, the FRUD split into two factions after signing a peace accord with the government in 1994, when only half of the organization accepted the agreement and the other half was not a party to it.
A feature common to some African governments is an entrenched executive. Djibouti’s President Ismail Omar Guelleh has been in office since 1999. This places him on the list of longest-serving African leaders. Opposition to his remaining in power is not a surprise, as, for instance, protests were held over the results of the 2021 presidential election, which most of Guelleh’s political opposition boycotted. Fair elections and political assembly will remain a challenge. Freedom House gave Djibouti a dismal 24/100 Global Freedom Score on their latest index.
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Djibouti is a geo-strategically important country for multiple reasons. It is located on the western side of the Bab-el-Mandeb where the southern end of the Red Sea meets the Indian Ocean. The importance of this waterway is paramount to the global economy. According to US Figures from 2018, over 6.2 million barrels of oil pass through this area on a daily basis. Protecting this strait is vital to the interests of various actors including the United States.
The flow of petroleum along with other issues such as the Yemen conflict have led several nations to establish military installations in Djibouti, highlighting its strategic importance. Currently, France (Djibouti’s former colonial ruler), Japan, the United States, China, the United Arab Emirates, and Italy all have bases in the country supporting various operations in the region.
Last spring, the jihadist terror group Al-Shabaab released a video that called for attacks on both French and American interests in Djibouti. Initial reporting of the incident on October 6th would have analysts asking whether Al-Shabaab was behind the recent attack on a Djiboutian army post. There were other reasons to initially consider Al-Shabaab a suspect, as, in 2014, the group claimed credit for a double suicide bombing at a restaurant in Djibouti that killed a Turkish national and injured several Westerners, including soldiers.
The activities of the FRUD are far from the only reason more attention should be paid to Djibouti. The glaring crisis in East Africa at the present is of course the conflict in Ethiopia, which has to varying degrees spread into neighboring countries, including Djibouti. The conflict between Ethiopian government forces, with Eritrean support, and Tigrayan forces in the north of Ethiopia is a source of regional instability. In August 2021, the conflict briefly spilled over into Djibouti but has not occurred since. The potential that this could repeat itself cannot be ignored.
Events in Djibouti don’t always grab international headlines like other issues in the region such as the Ethiopian conflict, the war in Yemen, and the instability in Sudan, South Sudan, and Somalia. Nonetheless, Djibouti faces security challenges and is an influential player in the region. Instability in the country could cause significant regional and international problems.
- Analysis by Scott Morgan
Islamic State Pakistan Province Propaganda Group Targeted by Online Supporters and Ravaged by Fake Statements
In the last few weeks, in some pro-Islamic State online Telegram groups from Pakistan and Afghanistan, screenshots and messages harshly criticizing the Nida-e-Haq and Nashir Pakistan — the mouthpiece of Islamic State Pakistan Province (ISPP) that publishes in the Urdu language — have been circulated by IS supporters, calling the two institutions as run by “apostate” and ignorant people.
The latest wave of messages was sparked by Nashir Pakistan’s fundraising campaign circulated after the issuing of the latest number of ISPP magazine Yalghar on August 30. Some accounts from these circles have been arguing that the magazine contains several beliefs which contradict IS official ideology and that behind the publication of the magazine there are actually Deobandi followers who are using the name of IS in order to raise funds for themselves. They even go further saying that the ultimate goal of these people who are still imbued with Al-Qaeda’s ideology is to dilute IS ideology, mixing it with the Deobandi creed.
Some of the main arguments that these accounts present are taken from the “Question House” section run by Nashir Urdu, a channel where questions from followers are posted with an answer from an ISPP mufti. Questions usually vary from history to politics and, mostly, legal judgments and religious creed. One of the arguments brought by these accounts consists in not considering an “unbeliever” or a “polytheist” to be also automatically an “apostate”. This is regarded as tantamount to disbelief and polytheism itself committed by people running ISPP channels, according to these IS supporters.
In particular, one message is presented as proof of this, where a supporter asks whether it is permissible to label as an apostate someone who prostates himself in front of an “idol” while praying. Some accounts shared answer number 0550 which allegedly provides ISPP opinion, which is that if the one who prostates, does so in order to “come closer” to God in his prays, then it is not disbelief. In contrast, these IS accounts call on IS supporters in Pakistan not to donate money to Nashir Pakistan and Nida-e-Haq and not to migrate to Pakistan where they would eventually be captured by local spy agencies. One supporter suggests IS followers in Pakistan should disguise themselves as Tablighi Jamaat affiliates and keep a low profile in order to avoid capture.
Other answers allegedly taken from ISPP “Question House” are presented as evidence of several mistakes and inaccuracies contained in the religious opinions provided by Nashir Pakistan.
What is interesting to note is that some of these supporters even claim that ISPP no longer acts as a loyal province of the Islamic State, but it is run by people who diverted from IS ideology, or have never been true to it, and are using IS name only for their own profit. One account claimed he had contacted ISPP economic department on Telegram — whose contact is provided by Yalghar — and that this account explained to him that the order to collect money for ISPP came directly from Dawood Mehsud (Abu Mahmood) “the lame”, the Wali of ISPP.
*However, it seems that most of these accounts and their allegations are fake.
The main argument cited which discredits ISPP “Question House” is taken from answer 0550; however, that answer is not the original answer provided by ISPP accounts, which can be seen in the picture below. The original answer 0550 deals with three different questions on whether it is permissible to kill someone only because his opinion is different from that of IS; on why IS is not able to convince other groups to join it; and why the Taliban are considered to be “apostate”.
Evidently, the fake answer provided as evidence is clearly provocatory and false, as it deals with a question about so-called “idolatry”, which is naturally heavily rejected by IS and ISPP. Moreover, a previous answer from ISPP clearly stated the intolerant stance of the group vis-à-vis other religious groups and Islamic currents, fully embracing IS creed and rejecting any prostration or standing which might resemble an act of worship not dedicated to God but to statues or symbols.
Moreover, while other screenshots provided by these accounts from ISPP “Question House” are authentic, the criticism is weak and mostly partisan, mystifying the true meaning of the given answers.
Notably, this wave of criticism moved towards ISPP might have two different causes. In recent months, we have seen Islamic State Khurasan Province (ISKP) channels warning their followers of people online working for intelligence agencies from the region who are trying to gather information about ISKP members. Consequently, ISKP warned its supporters to only contact the official handles of Al-Azaim Foundation while stating that any other publication issued in the name of ISKP would not have been official. Similarly, pro-ISPP groups might suffer from similar infiltrations, with accounts slandering official ISPP handles.
However, another possibility deals with the passive approach of ISPP in Pakistan. Several pro-ISPP Urdu accounts seem genuine in their belief that ISPP has been derailed by internal conflict and people who are not true to IS ideology but use the name of the Islamic State for their own profit. This might have led some supporters to openly discredit ISPP and call for IS affiliates in Pakistan to migrate to Afghanistan, where they say a true IS province — ISKP — is conducting a war against IS enemies.
- Analysis by Riccardo Valle
Russian and Arabic Islamic State Group Collects Crypto Using QR Codes to Support Families in Syrian Camps
A Telegram channel named “Almohad Supporters” was created on September 12 with the purpose to raise money for Islamic State families languishing in Syrian camps. The channel’s content is in both Arabic and Russian which is a quite common mix in the online ecosystem geared toward fundraising to support these families.
The group’s pinned message says that “we have opened a channel on Instagram and on Telegram” adding that “the purpose of the channel is to help sisters in captivity (camp al-Roj and al-Hol) … who are in need.”
Interestingly, the group uses a QR code linked to a USDT (stable crypto coin pegged to the US dollar) address to raise funds for these families. An accompanying message says, “For all those who want to donate in the way of Allah for sisters and orphans who are in captivity.” They then include a quote by the Prophet about how Allah will take care of those who help other Muslims.
The channel has been promoted by various Islamic State Telegram channels including one prominent Uzbek pro-Islamic State Khurasan Province group.
Conflict Photos of the Week