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Stratfor — A string of unusual attacks by al Qaeda's North African branch could shed some light on the jihadist group's latest predicament. Pressure is mounting on al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) to counter the Islamic State's growing encroachment on its territory, resources and pool of recruits.
The rise of an effective rival for the helm of global jihadism has forced al Qaeda to step up its game, especially in areas where it has been weakened. Northern Africa — and particularly Mali, where France's military intervention has significantly degraded AQIM's capabilities over the past few years — is one such place.
The reversal of AQIM's fortunes by both the Islamic State and France may be the motive behind the group's latest spate of attacks against soft targets in African cities.
Scott Stewart (Stratfor) — Bombs used in the March 22 attacks in Brussels displayed a degree of tradecraft not before shown by the Islamic State outside its core areas of operation.
The bombings at the Zaventem airport and at a metro station in Brussels killed 35 and wounded more than 300, making them the deadliest jihadist bombing attack in the West in more than a decade.
The Brussels attacks broke the recent trend of moving toward armed assaults from bombings. The Brussels cell was able to conduct such a large bombing operation because one of its key members, identified by Belgian authorities as Najim Laachraoui, possessed advanced bombmaking tradecraft acquired from Islamic State trainers while he was in Syria. Laachraoui is also thought to have constructed the bombs used in the November 2015 Paris attacks.
Eugene Chausovsky (Stratfor) — With the Dominican Republic in the middle of an election season, the streets of Santo Domingo are colorful and lively. Dominicans are set to vote in presidential and parliamentary elections May 15, and there is palpable excitement in the air as campaign posters fill the city's streets and adorn buildings and billboards.
But if it seems this excitement is also mixed with feelings of apprehension or, in some cases, resignation, a brief history of the country may help explain why.
The island of Hispaniola, now divided between the Dominican Republic on its eastern half and Haiti on its western half, was one of the places where Europeans and the inhabitants of the New World first made contact.
Uri Friedman (The Atlantic) — In October 2015, two suicide bombers killed more than 100 people outside a railway station in the Turkish capital of Ankara.
It was the deadliest terrorist attack in the country’s modern history, but it was also something more, something not fully appreciated at the time, according to Robert Pape, a terrorism expert at the University of Chicago: The U.S.-led military campaign against the Islamic State—a mixture of air strikes and support for local ground forces—had turned ISIS into a “cornered animal.” And the animal was lashing out.
The group’s suicide attacks in its sanctuaries of Syria and Iraq declined, displaced by complex acts of terrorism abroad: the Ankara attacks, followed by the October 2015 downing of a Russian plane over Egypt, the November 2015 Paris attacks,more explosions in Turkey, and most recently triple bombings, at least two of them suicide blasts, in Brussels.
Ben Watson & Patrick Tucker (Defense One) — The momentum has shifted in the U.S.-led coalition fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, so it’s time to commit more forces for the looming battles ahead, the top U.S. civilian and military leaders told reporters Friday.
“We have a series of recommendations that we will be discussing with the president in the coming weeks to further enable our support for the Iraqi Security Forces, or ISF,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joe Dunford. “The secretary and I both believe that there will be an increase to the U.S. forces in Iraq in the coming weeks—but that decision hasn’t been made.”
“We’re broadening both the weight and the nature of our attacks on ISIL,” added Defense Secretary Ash Carter. “In both Syria and Iraq, we’re seeing important steps to shape what will become crucial battles in the months to come.”