The month of May continued many of the same trends in global terrorist activity as the prior month. Boko Haram started off very active and deadly in West Africa. The Taliban continued their spring offensive in Afghanistan with numerous fatalities in their strikes. ISIS jumped to the lead as the deadliest global terrorist organization in the month of May.
Boko Haram remains the deadliest terrorist organization within the continent of Africa. An attack with multiple bombs and detonations in Mubi, Nigeria has been accredited to Boko Haram and resulted in 86 deaths. Less than a week later another attack on a Nigerian community of around 3,000 people resulted in the deaths of more than 45 people with initial reports suggesting that number would likely climb higher. Boko Haram terrorists were reported to have fired upon children and torched houses during the course of the attack.
Boko Haram is reported to have split into two factions operating within Nigeria. One faction claims loyalty to the Islamic State (ISIS) while the second does not. The faction loyal to ISIS is reportedly seeking to avoid killing other Muslims in their attacks on civilians while the second faction, rooted to the original founders of Boko Haram does not discriminate in killing fellow Muslims.
Later in the month in the nation of Burundi terrorist attacks took shape seemingly in relation to the country’s pending elections. Attackers arrived at a local village invading homes, setting fire to many of the homes and killing people with machetes and guns. At the time of the May 12, New York Times report 26 were reported killed in the terror attack. The attack has been deemed terrorism by the local authorities but so far no specific group has been associated with the attacks.
In Central African Republic terrorists struck a church during mass killing at least 26 people.
In Libya ISIS attacks took place in relation to the country’s upcoming elections in early May. The largest of these attacks killed 16 people. Car bombs and suicide bombers linked to ISIS escalated the violence and death counts in Libya throughout the month of May.
ISIS was also credited with the brutal attacks in Mali in early May. At least 17 people were killed, including many who were burned to death in their homes. Later in the month an attack conducted by men on motorcycles and in cars killed over 20 people at a checkpoint in Mali.
Although ISIS and the Taliban are now competing for power within Afghanistan terrorist activity in the country and specifically that perpetrated by the Taliban ranked at the highest level of violence in the form of fatalities than anywhere else in the world during the month of May. Election centers and tax offices were frequent targets for both groups throughout the month.
An ISIS strike on a customs office in Jalalabad resulted in at least 100 deaths. Meanwhile a series of smaller attacks carried out by the Taliban resulted in the deaths of at least 100 Afghan police and security personnel in the course of a week. Throughout the month ISIS and the Taliban dotted the Afghan landscape with rising death counts through new terrorist attacks.
The web site The Long War Journal reports that the Taliban now control 42% of the country and have solid claims to at least 60% of Afghanistan.
- Additional Reading: Worse Than Civil War and Taliban and Islamic State Target Religious Opponents in Afghanistan.
Syria and Iraq remained the most active locations for terrorist activity and ISIS was the most active among the terrorist organizations here. While some ground was gained against ISIS in these areas, it did not slow the ongoing violence in the region. In Iraq for example 5 of the leading ISIS officials were captured. After brutally violent battles between Assad forces and ISIS in Syria, a truce between the two sides seemed to allow time for many ISIS soldiers to flee the outskirts of Damascus.
In Iraq the elections of May 12, presented a large number of easy targets for ISIS throughout the major cities. Following the elections public parks and car bombs or suicide bombers were the target and method frequented by ISIS in the country.
ISIS remained most active throughout Syria with smaller but widespread attacks throughout the month. Much of the rising fatalities at the hands of ISIS in Syria were targeted security and military personnel. Due to this factor many of the ISIS attacks here might be more properly understood as insurgent attacks rather than terrorism since they are part of an ongoing war between two armed factions in the country.
Elsewhere in the region, Egypt continued a major crackdown on ISIS and suspected ISIS sympathizers. The nation’s chief prosecutor referred more than 500 terrorist suspects to military court in one day.
A Belgian prisoner on a 48 hour leave went on a killing rampage in the Belgian city of Liege, killing three people before he himself was killed. The killer yelled “Allahu Akbar” while perpetrating the murders. ISIS has recognized the terrorist as one of their “soldiers.”
In Chechnya four terrorists armed with guns, hatchets and explosives attacked a church and killed four. Three were killed in the attacks. All four of the terrorists were killed.
In Paris, France a man relating to ISIS stabbed multiple people, killing one before he himself was killed by the police.
A deadly series of terrorist attacks in Indonesia opened the month of May. These attacks offered a new level of perversity in the forms of violence ISIS will commit. Whole families were committed to suicide bombing missions including children younger than 10 years of age. Prisons and churches were the primary focus for this series of attacks. More than 50 people were killed in these attacks.
- Additional Reading: How ISIS Has Changed Terrorism in Indonesia