For the night of 9 February 2015
Afghanistan: Last week the governor of Konduz Province in northern Afghanistan said that a cell of 70 members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has begun operating in Charhar Darah District and Dasht e Archi District of Konduz. They have not engaged in any combat activities yet, but have focused on infrastructure work, such as training, coordination and logistics.
Comment: A compilation of press reports indicates ISIL has a presence in 23 of Afghanistan's more than 400 districts. ISIL has not yet put a fighting force in combat, apparently, but reports of its presence or of groups that have pledged allegiance to ISIL have rattled the Taliban. A US drone attack on 9 February killed ISIL recruiter and former Taliban commander, Mullah Abdul Rauf.
The two districts of Konduz mentioned by the Konduz governor were two that the Germans failed to subdue for ten years. They were the Taliban's base districts in Konduz Province, especially Chahar Darah, because the population was primarily Pashtun. Some Taliban fighters might have just switched allegiance.
Ukraine: The Ukrainian National Defense and Security Council published its latest situation map, which is shown below. It shows a few towns in Ukrainian control that news reporters at the scene reported are in rebel hands. For example, the town of Debal'tseve is surrounded. It does depict the extent of fighting. Press coverage focuses on a few key areas, but clashes are fairly widespread.
Libya: Libyan special forces said on Monday, 9 February, that they had retaken the main military base in Benghazi from Islamist fighters whom they have been battling since October. Special forces commander Wanis Bukhamada told the press that his troops had seized the army camp as well as nearby offices belonging to the state cellphone operator.
Comment: The special forces are part of General Hifter's forces who have been trying to recapture Benghazi since early last year. This is the most progress they have reported in many months. Press services reported that fighting continues near the Benghazi port.
Hifter's forces are loyal to the internationally recognized government which sits at Tobruk. The Islamist regime and its militias still hold Tripoli. Islamists in Benghazi and its environs are a separate set of terrorist and militant groups.
Niger: Nigerien forces repelled another attack by Boko Haram fighters against the town of Diffa. Boko Haram apparently tried to cause a prison break in Diffa, but no Boko Haram fighters are imprisoned there. This was Boko Haram's third or fourth attack in four days.
Comment: The latest reports contain no mention of air support or of Chadian forces. Those forces and some French coordinators most likely were involved. Their omission from the news reports is most likely to protect national pride.
Boko Haram is unlikely to give up on Diffa because it is a regional capital whose capture would threaten to undermine the developing multi-national force initiative. In a video released on 9 February, Boko Haram's leader, Abubakar Shekau, taunted the leaders trying to form the new multi-national force and vowed it could not win against Islam.
Cameroon: Military sources said Boko Haram attacked the village of Kerawa in Far North Region on Sunday, 8 February. The Cameroonian Army claims it killed 11 Boko Haram fighters. At least eight Cameroonian soldiers were wounded in the fighting, but not seriously.
Separately, Boko Haram groups also attacked two other villages. In one incident the terrorists kidnapped up to 30 passengers from a bus and killed 12 of them.
Comment: Boko Haram seems to be using a surge in attacks to display its defiance of the regional forces. However, the villages Boko Haram fighters attacked on Sunday are small. Some are not located in a recent gazetteer of Far North Region.
Attacks on easy, small targets suggest terrorist groups operating in Cameroon are trying to avoid clashes with the Cameroonian and Chadian forces. They might also be trying to overextend them. Previously, Boko Haram groups sought out larger villages for their supplies and hostages. Boko Haram cannot consolidate its caliphate in northeastern Nigeria as long as hostile and capable central African forces can threaten it from the north and east.
Clarification: Jihad means struggle or striving. It is not a pillar of Islam, but it is a religious duty of all Muslims. It is one of the ten practices of Shia Islam. Historically, in most cases jihad refers to military struggle. Some Islamic scholars call jihad the sixth pillar. A Sunni Pakistani cab driver in the US assured NightWatch that jihad is the duty of all Muslims and it includes killing his passengers if Allah called him... Thanks to Feedback.
End of NightWatch for 9 February.
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