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Security Brief: Extremism Week of July 19, 2021

Week of Monday, July 19, 2021 | Issue 43

Lydia Pardun, Katelyn Ramirez, Extremism Team


Sadr City in Iraqi Capital[1]


Date: July 19, 2021

Location: Sadr City, Baghdad, Iraq

Parties involved: Iraqi government; Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)

The event: On Monday evening, a suicide bomber killed 35 and wounded over 60 people in a crowded marketplace. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, stating one of their members used an explosive vest. The attack itself occurred on the eve of Eid al Adha when observance of the Islamic holiday begins.

The implications:

  • ISIS has claimed multiple attacks occurring in Baghdad this year, including their first large suicide bombing. This trend suggests a returning capability for ISIS to conduct more impactful attacks and focus on Baghdad as a target. It is likely ISIS will continue attacks in the area.

  • Suicide bombing continues to be successfully used by ISIS and other terrorist groups. They will almost certainly continue using the tactic as law enforcement struggles to identify and stop suicide bombers before attacks.

  • Iraq’s security forces are likely to renew efforts to fight terrorism due to the recent rise of terrorist activity in the area. ISIS’s returning activity in the region threatens the government’s ability to protect its citizens and prevent terrorism. The attack’s damage to the community could also lead to anger and unrest if the government’s response to terrorism does not meet their expectations.

  • With ISIS claiming several attacks in multiple states during the timeframe of a single holiday, they are likely trying to rebuild their reputation as a threat. With this intent, attacks claimed by ISIS are likely to increase in frequency as the group seeks more publicity. Additionally, increased focus on ISIS after their successful attack will likely lead to a rise in recruitment as the group markets itself as capable of achieving its goals.


Date: July 19, 2021

Location: Afar, Ethiopia

Parties involved: Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF); Tigray Defense Forces (TDF); Ethiopian government

The event: Tigrayan forces began to fight Ethiopian and Afar forces in the previously untouched state of Afar. Tigrayan fighters have met military opposition against Afar militias, who have called on Ethiopian troops to the area. The Somali government has also sent forces to the region to aid Ethiopian forces.

The implications:

  • Afar is Ethiopia's critical geopolitical regional state since it serves as its immediate access to the sea. A significant railway and road connect the capital of Addis Ababa to the seaport of Djibouti. If Tigrayan forces manage to gain control of Afar, this would almost certainly serve as a devastating blow to Ethiopian leader, Abiy Ahmed, as pro-government Ethiopian civilians and forces would have increasingly limited access to the sea. This would likely affect trade and the accessibility of humanitarian aid to come into the landlocked state of Ethiopia.

  • The growing potency of the Tigrayan forces' military victories shows the group's strength and will likely encourage leader Ahmed to execute more drastic actions against Tigrayan forces. This would almost certainly implicate many more Ethiopians aside from the millions already displaced from the eight-month-long conflict. Additionally, if Tigrayan forces manage to control the critical seaport Djibouti, the humanitarian crisis would worsen. Current and potential displaced groups of Ethiopians would be more vulnerable to dying as humanitarian aid would be inevitably less accessible through non-governmental control of the seaport. Lack of protection and access to resources from the Ethiopian government is likely to lead to increased recruitment in Tigrayan forces from people seeking stability from a perceived more capable group.

________________________________________________________________________ The Counterterrorism Group (CTG)

[1]Sadr City in Baghdad, July 2005” by Christian Peacemaker Teams licensed under Creative Commons

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