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U.S. Report: ISIS and al Qaeda Threats

ISIS Wilayat Iraq May 2020
ISIS fighters in Iraq

ISIS and al Qaeda were “resilient and active” terrorist threats, according to the State Department’s Country Reports on Terrorism 2021. ISIS and its affiliates—particularly in Africa and Afghanistan—waged a “large-scale terrorism campaign” despite pressure from the United States and local partners. Al Qaeda and its branches in the Middle East and Africa were “quite capable of inflicting damage” on U.S. allies and interests. The two organizations posed the greatest terrorist threats in the Middle East along with Iran and its proxy militias.

ISIS was unable to control territory and suffered leadership losses. But it conducted attacks across Syria and Iraq. ISIS also sought to recruit new members and restore its territorial caliphate. More than 10,000 ISIS members were held in detention facilities in northeast Syria, and some 70,000 family members of fighters were in humanitarian camps. ISIS branches remained active in Iraq, Syria, the Arabian Peninsula, Libya, the Sinai Peninsula, Tunisia, and Yemen.

Al Qaeda and its affiliates posed an “enduring threat” to the United States and its allies. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) operated “in the seams between the various parties to Yemen’s civil war,” the State Department reported. Despite leadership losses, al Qaeda “remained a resilient adversary.” It sought to rebuild capabilities and preserve safe havens in the region, particularly in Egypt, Libya, Syria, and Yemen. The following are excerpts from the State Department’s Country Reports on Terrorism 2021.



“Terrorist groups continued to operate and maintain safe havens in the Middle East and North Africa throughout 2021. ISIS and its affiliates, al-Qa’ida (AQ) and affiliated groups, and Iran- backed groups continue to pose the greatest terrorist threats to the region.

“ISIS maintained significant operational capabilities and conducted terrorist operations throughout Syria and Iraq, while continuing to promote a large-scale terrorism campaign across the region. While ISIS remains unable to control territory and its leadership ranks have been significantly degraded, the group remains a serious threat to U.S. interests and security in the region and beyond. ISIS fighters continued to wage a low-level insurgency in Iraq and Syria, seeking to destabilize the region, recruit new members, and regain territory. More than 10,000 ISIS fighters, including some 2,000 non-Iraqi and non-Syrian FTFs, remained in Syrian Democratic Forces-controlled detention facilities in northeast Syria. More than 70,000 associated foreign family members, most of them children, remain in humanitarian camps for displaced persons. The COVID-19 pandemic continued to present logistical challenges to repatriations, but the United States continued to encourage allies and partners to repatriate their citizens and to prosecute or rehabilitate and reintegrate them, as appropriate. Beyond Iraq and Syria, ISIS branches, networks, and supporters across the Middle East and North Africa remained active, including in the Arabian Peninsula, Libya, the Sinai Peninsula, Tunisia, and Yemen. The 85-member U.S.-led Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS continued its comprehensive efforts to prevent a resurgence of ISIS’s so-called physical caliphate in Iraq and Syria and the activities of its branches and networks.

“Al-Qa’ida and its affiliates constituted an enduring threat to the United States and its allies and partners in the Middle East and North Africa. These groups remain capable of inflicting damage on our allies and partners and targeting our interests. Al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) continues to linger in the seams between the various parties to Yemen’s civil war, despite pressure from the Houthi military campaign in al-Bayda governorate. Though al- Qa’ida’s leadership ranks in the Middle East and North Africa continued to be degraded in 2021 and the group suffered setbacks, al-Qa’ida remained a resilient adversary. It actively sought to reconstitute its capabilities and maintain safe havens in the region amid fragile political and security climates, including in Egypt, Libya, Syria, and Yemen.

“Iran-supported groups continue to engage in dangerous and destabilizing activity across the Middle East, with Iran using the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) and its proxies and partners to advance its interests abroad. Iran continued to acknowledge the active involvement of the IRGC-QF in the conflicts in Iraq and Syria, the latter in support of the Assad regime. Through the IRGC-QF, Iran continued its support to several U.S.-designated terrorist groups, providing funding, training, weapons, and equipment to various groups within the region. Among the groups receiving support from Iran are Hizballah, Hamas, the Palestine Islamic Jihad, al-Ashtar Brigades and Saraya al-Mukhtar in Bahrain, Kata’ib Hizballah and Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq in Iraq, and Hizballah al-Hijaz in Saudi Arabia. Iran also provided weapons and support to other militant groups in Iraq and Syria, to the Houthis in Yemen, and to the

“Taliban in Afghanistan. Iran-backed militias continued sporadic attacks on Embassy Baghdad and bases hosting U.S. and other Defeat-ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria.

“Iranian support and guidance for the Houthis enabled attacks against Saudi Arabia in 2021. These attacks employed armed drones and ballistic missiles, which damaged airports and critical infrastructure. Iran also continued providing Hizballah with the bulk of the group’s annual operating budget, an allocation estimated in recent years to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars. This support has made Hizballah a dangerous terrorist partner with Iran and the most- capable terrorist organization in Lebanon. It also has enabled Hizballah to project its power throughout the region, including in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and the Persian Gulf. Hizballah’s presence in Lebanon and Syria continued to pose a threat to Israel. Israel continued to warn the international community about Hizballah’s efforts to produce precision-guided missiles within Lebanon with Iranian assistance. Hizballah has said that it has enough precision-guided missiles for a confrontation with Israel, but it has denied missiles are being developed in Lebanon. Although Palestinian terrorist groups in the West Bank and Gaza continued to threaten Israel, Israeli and Palestinian Authority security forces continued their coordination in the West Bank to constrain the ability of these organizations to conduct attacks.


Overview: The United States and Algeria built their CT partnership through regular dialogue and exchanges of technical expertise. Algeria continued its significant efforts to prevent terrorist activity within its borders using continual CT operations to arrest and eliminate terrorist suspects, dismantle and disrupt terrorist cells, and destroy hideouts, arms, and other equipment.

“These operations, particularly those that eliminated leaders and high-profile members of terrorist groups, substantially diminished their already-limited capacities to operate within Algeria. Al- Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and allied groups, ISIS’s Algeria branch, and the local group Jund al-Khilafah in Algeria (Soldiers of the Caliphate in Algeria), remained in the country though in ever-smaller numbers, as they have been unable to attract new recruits or significant new resources (or in some cases, may have relocated to Mali, an easier operating environment).

2021 Terrorist Incidents: Algeria-based terrorist groups did not conduct any domestic attacks in 2021. According to the Algerian Army’s yearly report, it neutralized 23 terrorists, arrested 222 terrorists and their supporters, and discovered and destroyed more than 50 terrorist caches and almost 100 homemade bombs and other weapons during CT operations in 2021. Algerian security forces sometimes clashed with violent extremists during these operations, occasionally suffering casualties.


Overview: There were no successful terrorist attacks in Bahrain in 2021, but domestic security forces conducted numerous operations to preempt and disrupt attack planning. On February 6, Ministry of Interior security forces thwarted a plot to detonate explosives at two National Bank of Bahrain automated teller machines (ATMs) in the al-Naim and Jidhafs areas in Manama. In September, four individuals were arrested for setting fire to a Bahrain National Bank ATM; the Ministry of Interior also accused them of being funded by the Iran-based al-Wafa group. Bahrain continued to offer support for countering Iran’s malign activities in the region. The Government of Bahrain initiated numerous programs intended to improve relations between the community and security forces.

2021 Terrorist Incidents: There were no terrorist attacks reported in Bahrain in 2021.


Overview: Egypt experienced a significant decrease in terrorist activity in 2021, compared with previous years. Egypt is committed to counterterrorism and countering violent extremism. Egypt continued its military campaign and social development programs in North Sinai, where a degraded ISIS-Sinai Province (ISIS-SP) targeted security forces, pro-government Bedouin groups, and civilians. In March, Egyptian security forces killed a senior ISIS-SP commander. In September, a high-profile ISIS-SP religious figure, reported to be behind the deadly 2017 Rouda Mosque attack, defected. Human rights organizations have raised concerns over reports of civilians allegedly killed during military operations in North Sinai.

2021 Terrorist Incidents: Based on government press releases, as well as social media and other local reporting, at least 90 terrorist incidents took place in the Sinai Peninsula and claimed about 200 casualties. ISIS-SP claimed most of the attacks. Like prior years, the methodology for the attacks included small arms attacks, IEDs, VBIEDs, kidnappings, murders (or killings), complex assaults, ambushes, and targeted assassinations. There was a significant decrease in the number, frequency, and severity of IEDs, VBIEDs, and complex operations with large-scale casualties against Egyptian security forces. Opportunistic IED and sniper attacks appeared to constitute most security force casualties.

  • On August 12, the Egyptian military announced the death of nine soldiers and 13 militants during undated clashes. Social media and ISIS-SP reporting claimed an IED attack on an M60 MBT and an armored vehicle during that timeframe.
  • On July 31, ISIS-SP killed at least five Egyptian soldiers and injured another six near Sheikh Zuweid during an ambush on a checkpoint, according to the press and a statement from Egyptian officials.
  • In mid-May, ISIS-SP media accounts claimed seven attacks with nine casualties, including Egyptian security forces and pro-government Bedouin tribe members.
  • On March 24, dozens of alleged ISIS-SP members stormed a town near Bir al-Abd and kidnapped at least 14 civilians, according to social media and local press.

“While ISIS-SP was the only group to publicly claim responsibility for attacks during the year, Harakat Sawa’d Misr and AQ-allied groups such as Ansar al-Islam remain groups of concern. Local security services were aware of attempts by unknown individuals to target churches and infrastructure across the year. Separately, security forces conducted and publicized occasional raids on weapons caches throughout Egypt, including in Cairo. Some of the raids resulted in the deaths of several individuals who were the intended targets of the raids. The government attributed those weapons caches to criminal elements rather than to terrorist organizations.


Overview: Iraq’s primary terrorist threats included ISIS remnants and various Iran-aligned militia groups (IAMGs), including U.S.-designated Kata’ib Hizballah, Harakat al-Nujaba, and Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, as well as smaller militias claiming to be a part of Iraq’s “Islamic Resistance.” The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a designated terrorist group primarily located in the mountains of northern Iraq and in southeastern Türkiye, conducted multiple attacks in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR) resulting in the deaths of several Kurdish security forces (Peshmerga) personnel.

“ISIS, though severely diminished in capacity, continued to conduct operations, particularly in northern and western rural areas with limited Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) presence. ISIS sought to reestablish footholds in Anbar, Diyala, Kirkuk, Ninewa, and Salah al-Din provinces, especially in the gaps between those areas frequently patrolled by the Peshmerga and ISF. Although ISIS conducted deadly terrorist attacks in Iraq, those attacks resulted in fewer casualties nationwide in 2021 than in previous years. Methods included bombings, indirect fire, IEDs, sniper fire, and ambushes. Iraq remained a pivotal member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and a participant in all Coalition Working Groups (Foreign Terrorist Fighter, Counter-ISIS Finance Group, Stabilization, and Communications). Iraq’s Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) conducted about 170 counterterrorist operations against ISIS during 2021, often with Defeat-ISIS Coalition support.

“Iraqi counterterrorism functions were principally executed by the CTS, a cabinet-level entity reporting directly to the prime minister, as well as by various security forces under the Ministries of Defense and Interior, and the Peshmerga. In limited instances, Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) augmented Iraqi Army and CTS-led operations. All PMF were required by law to operate under the command and control of the prime minister. However, Iran-aligned militia groups, including many within the PMF, defied central government command and control and engaged in violent and destabilizing activities in Iraq and in neighboring Syria, including killing and abducting people protesting militia corruption. The number of attacks by IAMGs against U.S. interests resulting in the killing and wounding of Iraqi service members and locals remained about the same in 2021 as in 2020. Media reported Turkish airstrikes against the PKK in northern Iraq resulted in civilian casualties, including children.

2021 Terrorist Incidents: Terrorists conducted more than 100 IED attacks on Defeat-ISIS- contracted convoys and launched at least 40 indirect fire attacks against U.S. interests in Iraq. Major terrorist incidents included the following:

  • On January 21, two suicide bombers attacked an open-air market in central Baghdad, killing 32 and injuring 110. ISIS claimed responsibility, saying it had targeted Shiites.
  • Iran-aligned militias launched several drone and rocket attacks against Erbil Airbase; one such rocket attack on February 15 led to the death of a U.S. contractor.
  • On April 18, Balad Air Base was struck by four 107mm rockets. On July 5, Ayn al-Asad Air Base was targeted with seven 122mm rockets. On July 7, Ayn al-Asad was targeted with 14 122mm rockets, impacting on-compound from a suspected multiple rocket launcher. On July 19 an ISIS suicide bomber killed at least 35 and wounded dozens more in a crowded market in the Sadr City district of Baghdad.
  • On October 26, ISIS attacked Al-Hawasha village in the Muqdadiya district of Diyala province, killing 13 civilians and wounding seven others.
  • On November 7, an IAMG drone attack targeted the Iraqi prime minister’s residence.


Overview: Israel remained a committed counterterrorism partner, closely coordinating with the United States on a range of counterterrorism initiatives. Owing to COVID-19, Israel and the United States held virtual interagency counterterrorism dialogues to collaborate on regional threats. Counterterrorism issues were also at the center of the agenda during numerous high- level U.S. visits to Israel.

“Israel faced threats along its northern and northeastern frontier from Hizballah and other Iran- backed groups, including as many as 150,000 rockets and missiles aimed at Israel, according to some Israeli estimates. Israeli officials expressed concern that Iran was supplying Hizballah with advanced weapons systems and technologies, including precision-guided missiles. This concern included Iran’s work to assist Hizballah and other proxies in indigenously producing rockets, missiles, and drones.

“To the South, Israel faced threats from terrorist organizations including Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and ISIS-Sinai Province. During the May escalation between Israel and Hamas, Hamas fired thousands of rockets into Israel from Gaza over 11 days, causing casualties. Other sporadic rocket attacks resulted in several injuries and property damage. The May escalation also saw a spike in intercommunal violence. There were attempts to infiltrate Israel from Gaza by armed militants (mostly during the May escalation), none of which resulted in Israeli casualties. Other sources of terrorist threats included the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and lone-actor attacks.

2021 Terrorist Incidents: The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) reported that the number of deaths from terrorist incidents had been the lowest in a decade. Nonetheless, Israel still experienced terrorist attacks involving weapons ranging from rockets and mortars to vehicular attacks, small arms, and knives. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, combined property damage as a result of incendiary balloons and rockets from Gaza during the year totaled $61.7 million.

“The following is a representative list of IDF-identified incidents:

  • In May, Hamas and other terrorist groups, including PIJ, launched more than 4,400 rockets and numerous incendiary balloons from Gaza toward Israel, many of which targeted civilian areas. Rockets from Hamas killed 13 civilians in Israel; Iron Dome, Israel’s air defense system, intercepted the vast majority of the rockets destined for populated areas. Israeli retaliatory airstrikes and errant Hamas rockets killed 256 Palestinians, of whom 128 were civilians, per UN figures. Estimates of Palestinians killed by Hamas rockets that fell short in Gaza are disputed, with some NGOs stating that as few as 20 were killed in this manner, and others putting the number at 91.
  • The May escalation with Hamas sparked social and intercommunal violence that resulted in property damage and casualties. Three Arab Israeli residents of Jaffa allegedly threw firebombs in Jaffa’s Ajami neighborhood, and 12-year-old Mohammed Jintzai sustained serious injuries in one of those attacks. Three suspects were arrested and charged with planning and perpetrating terror attacks, and for the illegal possession of weapons. The State Attorney’s Office also indicted seven Arab Israelis and Palestinians (five Israeli citizens and two residents of the West Bank) for terror offenses, including the murder of Yigal Yehoshua in Lod on May 11, for throwing stones, harming a vehicle, and obstructing justice. Four Jewish Israelis were arrested for assaulting, stabbing, and seriously wounding a Palestinian man in Jerusalem, and a similar assault carried out by a different group of young Jewish men also took place in Jerusalem later in the year. Police arrested 2,142 suspects, seized 970 illegal weapons and ammunition, and filed 184 indictments (some against more than one suspect) because of the May violence.
  • On September 30, a 30-year-old Palestinian woman attempted to stab police officers at the Chain Gate entrance to the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount (HAS/TM), according to press reports. Police shot and killed her, then briefly closed one HAS/TM gate and the Damascus Gate in the aftermath of the attack.
  • On November 21, a Hamas militant opened fire in Jerusalem’s Old City, killing one person and wounding four others (one seriously) before Israeli police fatally shot
    him. Israeli officials said Eliyahu Kay, a 26-year-old immigrant from South Africa, was killed in the shooting. Police identified the attacker as a 42-year-old Palestinian, Fadi Abu Shkhaidem, a teacher at a nearby high school in East Jerusalem.
  • On December 3, a 25-year-old Palestinian resident of the West Bank repeatedly stabbed a Jewish civilian outside Damascus Gate in East Jerusalem, then attacked two Border Police officers who shot and ultimately killed the attacker.
  • On December 8, a Palestinian minor stabbed 26-year-old Moriah Cohen in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem, as Cohen was taking her children to daycare. Although stabbed in the back, Cohen was only lightly injured. The suspect was arrested later in the day at her school.

The West Bank and Gaza Strip

Overview: The IDF, under the Israeli Ministry of Defense, is responsible for the West Bank, but PA security forces were granted security control of 17.5 percent (called Area A) under the 1993 Oslo Accords. The PA has administrative control over Area B (about 22 percent of the West Bank), but security control is shared with Israeli authorities. Israel maintains all administrative and security control of Area C, which comprises 61 percent of the West Bank. PA security forces and the IDF continued counterterrorism and law enforcement efforts in parts of the West Bank, where U.S.-designated FTOs such as Hamas, PIJ, and the PFLP operated. PA security forces constrained the ability of those organizations to conduct attacks, including arresting Hamas members. PA security forces continue to proactively arrest individuals planning attacks against Israeli targets or those suspected of supporting terrorist organizations, and continue to arrest Palestinians wanted for weapons smuggling or illegal weapons possession.

“The United States, through the multinational office of the U.S. Security Coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority, worked with the PA Ministry of Interior and PA security forces on reform efforts and training, including counterterrorism.

“According to the Israeli Ministry of Public Security, “the West Bank saw 39 terror attacks in 2021, down from the IDF’s reported figure of 60 in 2020.” Numbers accounting for terrorist attacks in the West Bank vary slightly depending on the source — the IDF, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA), or human rights groups such as B’Tselem. While this decrease was partially attributable to greater movement restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic, it also reflected a general downward trend in certain violence indicators since 2016, such as deaths of Israelis, deaths of Palestinians, and terrorist attacks in the West Bank. However, these figures do not account for settler violence against Palestinians and their property, which increased over the last year.

“Hamas, a U.S.-designated FTO and Specially Designated Global Terrorist, maintained de facto control over Gaza in 2021. Hamas and several militant groups, including Sunni violent extremist groups such as PIJ, launched an estimated 4,400 rocket attacks against Israel from Gaza. Hamas and its affiliates launched incendiary balloons and devices toward Israel, damaging farms and nature preserves. Hamas and PIJ tunneling activities continued. Live ammunition from Hamas’s anti-aircraft weapons struck buildings in Israel.

2021 Terrorist Incidents: Terrorist incidents during the year included the following:

  • On May 2, assailants in a passing vehicle shot and injured three Israelis near Tapuach Junction/Za’tara Checkpoint south of Nablus, then fled the scene. One of the victims, Yehuda Guetta, died as a result of his injuries. Israeli authorities set up checkpoints, resulting in clashes with youths during which five were shot. Medics said the three persons injured in the attack were men in their late teens or early 20s. They were taken to Petah Tikva’s Beilinson Hospital for treatment. The perpetrator of the drive-by shooting attack was a U.S. citizen, Muntassir Shalabi, according to media reports. The Shin Bet did not believe he had any affiliation with Palestinian terror groups. He was arrested four days after the attack, and later sentenced to two life sentences.
  • On August 21, a Palestinian militant from Gaza approached a border post and shot an IDF soldier at point-blank range during Hamas-organized border clashes in which several Palestinians were also killed. The soldier later succumbed to his wounds.
  • On September 30, a 30-year-old Palestinian woman attempted to stab police officers at the Chain Gate entrance to HAS/TM, according to press reports. Police shot and killed her, then briefly closed one HAS/TM gate and the Damascus Gate in the aftermath of the attack.
  • On December 3, a 25-year-old Palestinian resident of the West Bank repeatedly stabbed a Jewish civilian outside Damascus Gate in East Jerusalem, then attacked two Border Police officers who shot and ultimately killed the attacker.
  • On November 21, a Hamas militant opened fire in Jerusalem’s Old City, killing one and wounding four others (one seriously) before Israeli police fatally shot him. Israeli officials said Eliyahu Kay, a 26-year-old immigrant from South Africa, was killed in the shooting. Police identified the attacker as a 42-year-old Palestinian, Fadi Abu Shkhaidem, a teacher at a nearby high school in East Jerusalem.
  • On December 8, a Palestinian minor stabbed 26-year-old Moriah Cohen in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem, as Cohen was taking her children to daycare. Although stabbed in the back, Cohen was only lightly injured. The suspect was arrested later in the day at her school.
  • On December 16, near the Homesh settlement, three Palestinians in a car shot and killed Yehuda Dimentman. They were later arrested.


Overview: Jordan remained a committed partner on counterterrorism and countering violent extremism in 2021. As a regional leader in the Defeat-ISIS Global Coalition, Jordan played an important role in coalition successes in degrading the terrorist group’s territorial control and operational reach. Although Jordan did not experience a successful terrorist attack in 2021, the country faced a continued threat from terrorist groups. While the Jordanian security forces thwarted plots and apprehended suspected terrorists, the threat of domestic radicalization to violence, especially online, persisted.

2021 Terrorist Incidents: There were no terrorism incidents in 2021.


Overview: Kuwait is an active participant in international fora and regularly participates in counterterrorism training. The nation is a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and co-leads the Foreign Terrorist Fighters Working Group with Türkiye and the Netherlands. Kuwait has begun its Financial Action Task Force mutual evaluation process. However, the planned March onsite assessment was postponed to late 2023 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

2021 Terrorist Incidents: There were no terrorist incidents reported in Kuwait in 2021.


Overview: In 2021, the United States provided security assistance and training to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and worked with law enforcement organizations, such as the Internal Security Forces (ISF), to enhance their counterterrorism capabilities and investigate and prosecute local terrorism cases.

“Terrorist groups operating in Lebanon included U.S. government-designated foreign terrorist organizations such as Hizballah and ISIS.

“Hizballah continued armed militia activities in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen in collaboration with the Iranian regime. Lebanon’s 12 Palestinian refugee camps remained largely outside the control of Lebanese security forces and posed a security threat because of the potential for militant recruitment and terrorist infiltration. Several individuals on the FBI’s most wanted list and the Department of State’s Rewards for Justice list reportedly remained in Lebanon.

2021 Terrorist Incidents: The following is a representative list of terrorist incidents in Lebanon:

  • On February 3, civil society activist Lokman Slim was assassinated in southern Lebanon. Many local observers attributed his murder to Hizballah.
  • On May 13, 17, and 19, and on July 20 and August 4, rockets were launched from southern Lebanon toward Israel. The LAF attributed the launches to unspecified Palestinian terrorist groups.
  • On August 6, Hizballah claimed responsibility for launching 19 rockets from southern Lebanon toward Israel.
  • On August 22, members of a suspected ISIS cell orchestrated the drive-by motorcycle shooting of a retired LAF officer in Tripoli. In September, the LAF arrested members of a suspected ISIS cell in Tripoli accused of having killed the retired LAF officer the previous month.
  • On October 14, members of Hizballah and political party Amal engaged in armed clashes with members of the political group Lebanese Forces, in the Tayyouneh area of Beirut. The LAF deployed to restore order. Seven persons were killed and 32 injured in this incident.


Overview: Libyan government officials continued to work with U.S. counterparts to combat terrorism, although fractured security institutions limited direct cooperation. Following the failure of the self-styled Libyan National Army’s (LNA’s) military assault on western Libya in 2019-20, UN-facilitated talks selected a new nominally unified interim executive authority, the Government of National Unity (GNU), in March, with a mandate to lead the country to national elections, which were ultimately postponed.

“Despite the political uncertainty, terrorist groups such as ISIS and al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) have been unable to significantly regroup. While terrorist groups control no territory in Libya and are significantly degraded in terms of numbers and capacity, they remain a threat. Elements of the GNU are reliable and willing U.S. counterterrorism partners, although the GNU’s capacity to eliminate terrorist safe havens, counter terrorist financing, deter the flow of FTFs, and ensure effective counterproliferation efforts across Libya’s territory was limited. The LNA countered terrorism in the East and South of the country, but its counterterrorism gains were limited to areas under its direct control.

2021 Terrorist Incidents: Significant terrorist incidents in Libya in 2021 included the following:

  • In June, ISIS claimed responsibility for a VBIED suicide attack on a security checkpoint in Sebhā. When local police manning the checkpoint stopped and approached the vehicle, the driver reportedly detonated the VBIED, killing himself and two officers.
  • In August, a Sudanese national affiliated with ISIS attempted to conduct a VBIED attack against a security checkpoint manned by the LNA’s 128th Brigade in the town of Zellah in Al Jufra. The LNA claimed it shot the attacker before the VBIED detonated, and there were no other reported causalities.


Overview: The United States and Morocco have a long history of strong CT cooperation. The Government of Morocco continued its comprehensive strategy that includes vigilant security measures, regional and international cooperation, and counter radicalization policies. In 2021, Morocco continued to mitigate the risk of terrorism. The country continued to face sporadic threats from small, independent terrorist cells, the majority of which claimed to be inspired by or affiliated with ISIS. Morocco is a member of the GCTF, which it co-chairs with Canada. Morocco is also a member of the Defeat-ISIS Coalition’s Counter-ISIS Countering Violent Extremism Working Group and co-chairs the Africa Focus Group within the Coalition.

2021 Terrorist Incidents: There were no terrorist incidents reported in Morocco in 2021.


Overview: Oman is an important regional counterterrorism partner. The nation remains concerned about the conflict in Yemen and the potential for AQAP and ISIS-Yemen to threaten Oman’s land and maritime borders. Omani and U.S. officials regularly engaged on efforts to counter violent extremism and terrorism. Oman sought training and equipment from the U.S. government, other countries, and commercial entities to support its efforts to control its land, air, and maritime borders. The country welcomed U.S. security assistance to improve its crisis management capacity, as well as its counterterrorism tactics and procedures; however, some counterterrorism training and exercises were postponed or canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Oman issued statements condemning terrorist attacks around the world in 2021.

2021 Terrorist Incidents: There were no reported terrorist incidents in Oman in 2021.


Overview: The United States and Qatar continued to increase counterterrorism cooperation, building on progress made after the U.S. Secretary of State and Qatari foreign minister signed a counterterrorism MOU in 2017. During the November U.S.-Qatar Strategic Dialogue’s Counterterrorism Session, the two governments reviewed the significant progress made on counterterrorism cooperation and committed to maintaining ongoing momentum for 2022. Qatar is an active participant in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and all the Defeat-ISIS working groups. Qatar facilitated U.S. military operations in the region and hosts roughly 8,000 U.S. service members at military installations critical to Defeat-ISIS efforts.

2021 Terrorist Incidents: There were no reported terrorist incidents in Qatar in 2021.

Saudi Arabia

Overview: In 2021, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia continued to work closely with U.S. and international counterparts to deploy a comprehensive and well-resourced counterterrorism strategy that included security measures, threat detection and deterrence, measures to counter terrorist financing, and counter-radicalization efforts. The leading terrorist threat was Houthi cross-border attacks, some of which the United States has described as terrorism, which more than doubled in 2021. As in previous years, Saudi Arabia was a full partner and active participant in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and provided significant operational and logistical support to Coalition activities.

Terrorist Incidents: Houthi cross-border attacks, some of which the United States has described as terrorism, surpassed 400 in 2021, more than double the number of attacks in 2020. Incidents included the use of ballistic and cruise missiles, unmanned aerial systems, unmanned surface vessels, and floating mines. Significant cross-border incidents in 2021 included the following:

  • On February 10, shrapnel from a Houthi attack on Abha International Airport caused a fire on a civilian aircraft and injured 12 people.
  • On March 2, a Houthi drone attack against Jizan injured five civilians and caused damage to several buildings.
  • On August 30 a Houthi drone attack on Abha airport wounded eight civilians and damaged the airport and a commercial airliner.
  • On September 4 a Houthi complex drone and missile attack in the Eastern Province resulted in injuries to two children and damage to 14 private residences.
  • On October 8 a Houthi drone injured 10 civilians after it struck a commercial airport in Jizan.

“On March 30, a man was arrested at Masjid al-Haram, the Great Mosque of Mecca, after brandishing a weapon and shouting terrorist slogans. No injuries were reported. Separately, French prosecutors announced that they were investigating a December 30 vehicle explosion in Jeddah as a possible terrorist attack. The incident damaged an automobile associated with the Dakar Rally auto race and injured one civilian, a French national, according to press reports.


Overview: Counterterrorism and border security continued to be a top priority of the Government of Tunisia in 2021. The risk of terrorist activity remained high, exacerbated by sustained instability in neighboring Libya, although the frequency and scale of terrorist attacks conducted in 2021 decreased. Tunisia’s continued work to professionalize its security apparatus in partnership with the United States and its commitment to conduct joint Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defense CT operations have steadily degraded violent extremist organization capacity within the country. Despite COVID-19 challenges affecting national resources, Tunisia demonstrated consistent security force readiness and carried out proactive CT operations throughout the year. Tunisia continued work on implementation of a national preventing/countering violent extremism strategy and the freezing of terrorist assets, and demonstrated improvements in CT crisis response, coordination, and investigation.

Terrorist Incidents: On March 11, the Ministry of Defense reported that an IED explosion near Mount Salloum in the governorate of Kasserine killed two children, ages 7 and 9, and injured their mother. On November 26, police shot and wounded a violent extremist who attacked the Ministry of Interior headquarters in Tunis using a knife and a cleaver.

United Arab Emirates

Overview: The United Arab Emirates (UAE) advanced counterterrorism efforts in 2021, particularly in countering terrorist financing and in the international cooperation domain. The UAE’s Central Bank (CBUAE) imposed financial sanctions on several exchange houses operating in the UAE, and the cabinet added 38 individuals and 15 entities to the UAE’s terrorist list. U.S. and UAE security agencies signed an information-sharing memorandum of cooperation to facilitate lawful international travel. The UAE remains a leader in countering violent extremist narratives on a global level, supporting CVE education and participating in and hosting international fora to promote tolerance and coexistence. The UAE continued valuable support for counterterrorism efforts as a member of the Defeat-ISIS Coalition and in Yemen against al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula, including support to local forces in counterterrorism operations.

2021 Terrorist Incidents: There were no reported terrorist incidents in the UAE in 2021.


Overview: Al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), ISIS-Yemen, and Iranian and Iran- backed terrorist groups such as the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) and Hizballah exploited the political and security vacuum created by conflict between the internationally recognized Republic of Yemen government and the Houthis, as well as conflict between the government and the Southern Transitional Council (STC). Additionally, IRGC-QF exploited the conflict to expand Iran’s influence and enable Houthi cross-border terrorist attacks against Saudi Arabia. UN reporting has highlighted connections between IRGC-QF and the Houthis, including the provision of lethal aid used to undertake attacks against infrastructure in Saudi Arabia impacting civilians.

“The Republic of Yemen government controlled roughly two thirds of the country’s territory, although Houthi-controlled areas contained 70 percent to 80 percent of the population, including the capital, Sana’a. Implementation of the 2019 Riyadh Agreement, which called for a power-sharing agreement between the government and the STC, was incomplete and failed to eliminate tensions in the South, where AQAP turned for safe haven following Houthi gains in al-Bayda governorate.

“The Republic of Yemen government cooperated with the U.S. government on counterterrorism efforts but could not fully enforce CT measures or reliably undertake operations across the country because of instability, violence, and degraded capabilities. A security vacuum persisted, which provided AQAP room to operate. In territory controlled by the government and government-aligned forces, there were instances in which counterterrorism charges were used as a pretense to detain independent journalists (especially female journalists) who published articles critical of local authorities. Security Belt Forces affiliated with the STC and UAE continued to play an important role in CT efforts, as they exercised control over significant parts of Aden and Abyan; however, they have also been accused of human rights abuses, including in detention facilities they operate. ISIS-Yemen has been severely degraded, and many affiliates likely have reintegrated into local militias. AQAP remained active in central Yemen, most notably in al-Bayda. When the Houthis pushed into al-Bayda, AQAP scattered to neighboring Abyan and Shabwah governorates. In November, AQAP leader Khaled Batarfi posted a video justifying reduced activity in Yemen as an opportunity to recruit and leave AQAP’s foes to weaken one other.

2021 Terrorist Incidents: Attacks attributed to AQAP decreased in 2021, compared with 2020. Methods included sniper fire, VBIEDs, ambushes, armed clashes, kidnappings, and targeted assassinations. Notable terrorist incidents included the following:

  • In March, AQAP-affiliated gunmen killed eight soldiers and four civilians in an attack on a checkpoint controlled by Security Belt Forces in the Ahwar district of Abyan.
  • The UN Panel of Experts reported that AQAP kidnapped five government officials in Shabwah on June 14, whom they later released on July 5.
  • In November, AQAP claimed several attacks in al-Bayda.
  • Houthi cross-border attacks, some of which the United States has described as terrorism, are addressed in the Saudi Arabia section."



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