IW Roundup — May 24, 2021

This Week in Irregular Warfare

Myanmar military targets rebels as coup resistance intensifies; Investigations held on reports claiming death of Boko Haram’s leader; Chad accuses Libyan fighters of undermining terrorism fight; Iran rejects Canadian ruling of Ukrainian plane shot down as act of terrorism; and more…

Welcome to the latest installment of The Irregular Warrior’s news digest on Irregular Warfare and Special Operations. As always, we hope you’ll find this collection to be interestingly broad in its scope, in addition to bringing you the stories most relevant to U.S. readers. Now on to the roundup:

Myanmar military targets rebels as coup resistance intensifies

The nature of the protests against the recent coup in Myanmar is changing. The once-peaceful protest movement, which had been employing various forms of non-violent resistance, is now increasingly turning into an armed resistance after months of the military junta responding with a heavy hand, killing around 800 of the protestors. The military has now planned to target the militia groups and protestors in the town of Mindat. Military bombardment forced both resistance fighters and civilians to flee the town. The junta has labelled the militia members as terrorists in a bid to legitimize the use of military force. The Washington Post, May 21. [Myanmar conflict sends thousands fleeing as military targets rebels – The Washington Post]

While Myanmar has had armed ethnic groups fighting government authority for decades, this armed resistance is new. The recent fighting not only included a resurgence of conflict with well-established groups like the Karen National Union and the Kachin Independence Army, but has also emerged in areas that were once peaceful. These new resistance groups are of various strength and technical capability, and it remains to be seen how well they will be able to stand up to (or evade) the military. At this time, they appear to have the moral support of the people of Myanmar, but in addition to support, an effective insurgency requires that the resistance survive government pressure while building relative strength.

Investigations held on reports claiming death of Boko Haram’s leader

Nigerian local intelligence reports claim the death of Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, who has been leading the terrorist organization since 2009. Shekau has been allegedly killed in a clash with Islamic State Western Africa Province’s (ISWAP) members. The military, nonetheless, is investigating the matter as Shekau has been declared dead multiple times in the past which later turned out to be false. Al Jazeera, May 21. [Nigerian army investigates reports of Boko Haram leader’s death | Nigeria News | Al Jazeera]

Boko Haram has a complex past regarding affiliation and competition with ISIS and al Qaeda. The gist as it applies here: Boko Haram had become an official affiliate of ISIS in March, 2015, becoming ISWAP, but by August, 2016, ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had replaced Shekau as leader of ISWAP due to his overly aggressive use of “takfiri” ideology and targeting of civilians. Rather than accept the demotion, Shekau split off from ISWAP under the old name of the group. There has been a rivalry between these two (and another anti-Baghdadi Boko Haram) ever since, although periods of cooperation have occurred as well.

Chad accuses Libyan fighters of undermining terrorism fight

Chad’s Foreign Minister cautioned the United Nations Security Council about the deteriorating security situation of the Sahel as Libyan mercenaries and foreign fighters have become more active in Chad after the death of President Idriss Deby. The Foreign Minister stressed that similar situations could occur across the whole of the Sahel as the terrorist elements crossing into the Sahel can undermine the security measures and the progress made up till now in the fight against terrorism. He urged the Security Council to finance and strengthen the Five Nation African Force in order to enable it to defeat the terrorists. The Washington Post, May 19. [Chad says Libya fighters risk undermining terrorism fight – The Washington Post]

Iran rejects Canadian ruling of Ukrainian plane shot down as act of terrorism

The Iranian Foreign Minister called the ruling shameful and stressed that Canada has no legal jurisdiction over the incident. The plane was shot down in January last year by IRGC’s foreign wing, Quds Force, killing 176 people on board. The accident was assessed by Iranian officials to be caused by to human error, as the system was not recalibrated during a night in which Iran expected a potential attack by United States. Al Jazeera, May 21. [Iran denounces Canada ruling plane downed an ‘act of terrorism’ | Aviation News | Al Jazeera]

German Police Officer accused of Far Right Terrorism

The German officer, Franco A, has been taken on trial and accused of far right extremism. The case highlights the infiltration of extremist elements in the German security forces. The alleged terrorist has been living a dual life, one as a police officer and other as a Syrian refugee. He has been planning and plotting political murders of Claudia Roth; Vice President of German Parliament, Heiko Maas; German Foreign minister and a few others in order to damage the political system of the country. New York Times, May 20. [German Officer Goes on Trial, Accused of Plotting Far-Right Terrorism – The New York Times (nytimes.com)]

Senate confirmation hearing for ASD (SO/LIC)

The Senate Armed Services Committee will consider four pending nominations, including Christopher Maier to be assistant secretary of defense for special operations (ASD(SO/LIC)). [This week in Congress: Biden’s budget due out at last – Military Times]

There have been no reports of significant opposition to Mr. Maier’s appointment. However, this appointment comes only weeks after the partial reversal of late Trump-era policy changes to elevate the ASD (SO/LIC) to directly and independently report to the Secretary of Defense and exercise oversight of the U.S. Special Operations Command. Therefore, expect some questions from the committee on organization, command and control, and civilian oversight.

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