Readers will note that I concluded 2019 by compiling and translating all the official Islamic State (IS) claims of operations that were released under the title of the 'revenge' expedition for the killing of its former leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and its former spokesman Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir. These claims were put out in the period 22-28 December 2019. In total I found 106 official claims put under this title and analysed the data primarily according to the IS wilayas ('provinces') and sub-regions where the claimed operations occurred.
As a follow-up comparison it is worth noting IS' own tallies and coverage of its 'revenge' expedition operations as can be seen in this week's issue of the IS newsletter al-Naba'. This week's issue of the newsletter features an infographic of statistics on the operations of the 'revenge' expedition and an editorial on the expedition. Below is the infographic with full translation.
Revenge Expedition for the Killing of the Two Venerable Sheikhs: The Amir al-Mu'mineen Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir (may God Almighty accept them both)
During a week from 22-29 Rabi' al-Thani 1441 AH
139 attacks in 8 states
32 attacks and clashes
21 sniper attacks
3 martyrdom [istishhadi] and commando [inghimasi] operations
More than 355 killed and wounded:
163 disbelievers and apostates
Destruction and wrecking of 51 vehicles
Burning and destroying 7 barracks, 5 houses and farms
|Wilaya||Number of operations||Number of killed and wounded|
|Region of Iraq||Number of operations|
|Region of al-Sham||Number of operations|
|al-Khayr [Deir az-Zor]||23|
|Hawran [Deraa and Quneitra[||11|
And we advise our brothers in all the wilayas to be patient and reckon in anticipation, and be steadfast on their religion and jihad, and adhere to the group of the Muslims and its Imam, and be keen to take revenge for their leaders and brothers against the disbelievers and apostates- The official spokesman for the Islamic State al-Sheikh al-Muhajir Abu Hamza al-Qurashi (may God protect him).
The most striking difference with my tally is the higher claimed number of attacks/operations in the al-Naba' infographic. One reason for the discrepancy with my tally may be counting each military action within an official claim as a separate operation. It may also be that some claimed operations, particularly towards the end of the period of the 'revenge' expedition, have been included within the al-Naba' tally but were not claimed under the title of the 'revenge' expedition when they first came out.
Despite the difference in figures, the main statistical points match up: namely, that the majority of claimed operations occurred inside Syria and Iraq (constituting 79.856% of the caimed operations), with West Africa region following in third place (12.950%). Further, within Iraq and Syria, the majority of the claimed operations incur in the north-central and eastern parts of each country.
As for IS' view of the 'revenge' expedition as a whole, below is my translation of the al-Naba' editorial on the expedition. In short, the editorial asserts that the expedition has achieved a number of aims including showing the extent of the damage the 'mujahideen' can inflict on their enemies, the capabilities they still have stored up, the unity of their ranks despite the separation of distance between the various wilayas and their different origins and languages, their obedience to their amirs, and the failure of the global intelligence apparatuses and governments to anticipate and prevent the expeditions. Besides these more general aims, this expedition in particular also shows that IS has not died with Baghdadi's death and there are those willing to take revenge and continue on the path.
The Revenge Expedition has achieved its aims by the grace of God
More than 130 different attacks is the toll of the expedition of 'Revenge for the Killing of the Two Venerable Sheikhs: The Amir al-Mu'mineen Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Abu al-Hassan al-Muhajir (may God Almighty accept them both),' in which the different wilayas of the Islamic State participated. And its soldiers- by the grace of God Almighty- performed well in it, for through it they enraged the idolaters and the apostates and made the Muslims joyful and raised the zeal of the mujahideen, so may God rward them best on behalf of Islam and the Muslims.
And indeed the open results of this expedition and blessed expeditions that have preceded it have been abundantly clear to all people, through their counting of the number of killed and wounded of the disbelievers and apostates, and the number of vehicles and bases destroyed, and the amount of weapons, ammunition and equipment, for what is in that from indications as to the size of the damage the soldiers of the Islamic State have inflicted on their enemies, and that is among the aims of the expeditions undoubtedly. But indeed they also have greater and more general aims, and the mujahideen rejoice in them more than their rejoicing sometimes in the size of the damage inflicted on the enemies, and they are what the leaders of the idolaters and their military and security experts focus on, and intense rage strikes them whenever the signs of their realisation are higher in every expedition, and praise be to God the Lord of the Worlds.
For these blessed expeditions show firstly the unity of the rank of the soldiers of the Islamic State however much the distances cause separation between their wilayas, however much borders and checkpoints separate the fields of their jihad, and however much they differ in languages, ethnicities and colours, as they have been brought together by faith and Islam has conciliated their hearts and brought them together under one banner. They are all in obedience to one imam and their direction is towards one goal: an authentic, Prophetic methodology. Thus we reckon them and we do not vouch for anyone over God. Also the expeditions show their compliance with hearing and obeying their amirs, even in the most difficult and intense circumstances, through their responding to their amirs by launching the simultaneous attacks on the disbelievers and apostates in every place, even those afflicted by wounds and who are in adversity and difficulty only God Almighty knows. And in that is the great evidence- praise be to God- for the failure of all the attempts to split the ranks of the Muslims and disperse their group, and the thwarting of all the hopes for that to occur, after the killing of their imam Sheikh Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (may God accept him).
And these blessed expeditions show the ability of the mujahideen- by the grace of God Almighty- to escalate their activity, and increase the thrust of their attacks, and magnify the damage against their enemies, and implement that in times defined beforehand coordination for which occurs between the different wilayas. They also represent an opportunity for the mujahideen in difficult regions of operation, or when their material and human capabilities are obstructing them from operating with continual thrust, in that they set the timing of their attacks to coincide with the dates of the expeditions, so that they can strike their targets which they long prepared to target. Indeed it is possible even for the mujahideen far from the fighting fronts- and who cannot be informed of the date of the expeditions- to prepare themselves, and observe their targets, and put in place the appropriate plans to attack them, and make the necessary preparations for that. Then they can wait for the launching of the expeditions of the soldiers of the Islamic State so they may set out in their role and participate with them in the effort and attainment and reward, and the results of their operations may thus multiply by God's permission, and they may show their connection with the mujahideen even if the distances cause separation between them and artificial borders separate them.
And these blessed expeditions show that there is still much of the works of the mujahideen for them to reveal or undertake, whether in terms of the type of their targets, or places of their attacks, or means of targeting their enemies, or weapons and capabilities that God Almighty has placed in their hands and made available for them to use, and the like from what they have been postponing to undertake or postponing to announce- as became clear in the recent expedition- and what has remained in their pocket for the coming expeditions is greater and more dangerous by the permission of God Almighty.
And these blessed expeditions show the failure of the disbelieving intelligence apparatuses in expecting or knowing the dates of their launch or time period even as they claim to have review of all that goes on in the world, in addition to their ability to foil them and prevent their occurrence. And this is so- by the grace of God Almighty- because of the extension of their area, which makes the task of coordination between the disbelieving government sin the different regions of the world a difficult matter.
And these blessed expeditions show that the Islamic State does not respond to the one who claims the fading of its sun or the barrenness of its spring or the tranquillity of its winds with words and statements, but rather through deeds that compel its enemies to announce that their dreams are far from being realised, and that their hopes are far from being attained. And these deeds force them to deceive themselves and reveal to the one who believes them the extent of their deception of them, when they cannot deny the great size of the attacks of its soldiers and their spread in different regions of the world and the size of their damage inflicted on the disbelievers and apostates.
And if every expedition of the expeditions of the Islamic State has a declared aim, then the expedition of 'Revenge for the Two Venerable Sheikhs' is tantamount to a declaration that the jihad will not die with the killing of an imam or amir or student of 'Ilm, and that there are still those of the soldiers of this blessed sect who can rise to take revenge for their brothers who have died on the path upon which they have been steadfast after them. And it is a reminder to those who killed the two Venerable Sheikhs that God Almighty has preserved for them those who can sadden their faces and inflict on them the evil of torment by the permission of God Almighty, and it is an incitement for those of the Muslims who refrain from their jihad to rise up to be killed upon that upon which their amirs and sheikhs have been killed, and to take revenge against those who killed them, and carry the banner that they have been carrying after them, and to continue proceeding on their path until there is more fitna and religion belongs wholly to God, and indeed God will support the one who supports Him. Indeed God is powerful, mighty.