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Islamic State is reconstituting in Iraq and Syria

February 2, 2020

The change of leader would not have generated any strategic orientation change in the terrorist organization

MADRID, 2 Feb. –

Islamic State is beginning to reconstitute itself both in Iraq and in Syria, its original area of ​​action, with a considerable increase in the number of attacks and without a change in its strategic orientation due to the change in its dome after the death on October 26 of its leader, Abú Bakr al Baghdadi.

This is the main conclusion of the last report sent to the UN Security Council by the committee responsible for monitoring the activities of Islamic State and Al Qaeda. Although the terrorist group lost last March the last stronghold of its 'caliphate' in Syria, “it has begun to reassert itself” both in this country and in neighboring Iraq.

Islamic State is reconstituting in Iraq and SyriaIslamic State is reconstituting in Iraq and Syria

Thus, “it is organizing increasingly bold insurgent attacks, calling for and planning the escape of Islamic State fighters who are in detention centers and exploiting the deficiencies of the security environment of both countries,” highlights the report consulted by Europa Press.

Between July and September, “the rate of reconstitution of” Islamic State “as a covert network in Syria accelerated, similar to what had happened in Iraq in 2019,” explains the UN. “Freed from the responsibility of defending the territory, there was a notable increase in attacks in areas throughout the country controlled by the Syrian Government that were previously quiet,” he said.

The death of Al Baghdadi, who was immolated when he was cornered by the US special forces, and that of the Islamic State spokesman, Abú al Hasán al Muyahir, the next day in another US operation was a blow to the terrorist organization, if Well, the UN member states “consider it unlikely that there will be a change in strategic direction with the new leader.”

On the new leader, Abu Ibrahim al Hashimi al Qurashi, the report notes that some countries believe that it is actually Mohamed Abdulrahman al Mauli al Salbi, “second of Al Baghdadi” and whom experts in jihadism have identified as the architect of the campaign against the Yazidis in Iraq.

STRATEGIC GUIDANCE WILL NOT CHANGE

According to the report, it is not clear if Abú Ibrahim “will become an effective organizing force, capable of leading what is today a dispersed and heterogeneous group of supporters and affiliates.” “The current assessment is that the strategic orientation with regard to administration, propaganda and recruitment has not changed and that the command and control between the Islamic State nucleus in the conflict zone and its affiliates abroad will remain “, adds the document.

With regard to the theater of operations in Iraq and Syria, alert to the “security and humanitarian challenges” of the displaced persons camp in Al Hol, in northern Syria, where thousands of former militiamen and their families reside, as well as other detention centers in the area.

In this regard, the presence of Islamic State militiamen has been found in Idlib, a province in northern Syria controlled by groups close to Al Qaeda, while in Iraq the terrorist group fighters are mainly in the Anbar province, border with Syria

As of July 2019, it is estimated that there were about 1,000 combatants in western Iraq and border areas. According to the UN, the border between the two countries “remains unsafe enough, which allows some movement of combatants” and has caused an increase in Islamic State activity in the provinces of Deir Ezzor and Hasaka and “a rebound in the attacks against the US-led coalition and against local armed groups. ”

According to the document, “Afghanistan remains the area of ​​conflict of concern” outside of Iraq and Syria. Although the Islamic State has suffered “significant losses” in this country and last November was largely expelled by Afghan and Taliban forces from Nangarhar province, its main stronghold, the report highlights that the group “has proven to be resilient and it is still considered to represent a serious threat. ” The group would have about 2,500 combatants currently in Afghanistan, 2,100 of which are in the province of Kunar.

SUCCESS OF THE SUBSIDIARIES IN LAKE CHAD AND EL SAHEL

But undoubtedly, the branch that “most successful” obtained in the period analyzed by the report is the one that operates in the Lake Chad Basin, Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA), which was split from Boko Haram in 2016. This branch it has surpassed the one commanded by Abubakar Shekau, “both in capacity and in number of combatants”, with some 5,000 in the ranks of ISWA compared to between 500 and 2,000 with which Boko Haram would count.

This 'province' of the terrorist group “maintained a high rate of attacks and gathered a considerable volume of weapons, material and supplies thanks to its incursions against Nigerian security forces and strengthened its links with the Islamic State in Grand Sahara (ISGS)”, the subsidiary that has its “stronghold” in the border area between Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger.

Thus, the report adds, ISGS is now using “tactics that are usually associated with the operations” of the branch in Lake Chad as evidenced “attacks not only against small outposts but also against large military camps, in order to seize of a considerable number of weapons, ammunition, vehicles and gasoline. ” In addition, “they already have common facilitators and it is considered that this presages a better operational connection between the Sahel theater and that of the Lake Chad basin.”

Out of these three scenarios, the report refers to the presence of Islamic State in countries such as Libya, where the number of combatants has been reduced, or Somalia, where it also seems to be losing some bellows, while the threat in Central Africa, where a new province that mainly covers Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been created, “continues to evolve”. The latter subsidiary would have 2,000 local recruits and foreign fighters from different African countries.

CONTINUES WITHOUT RECONSTITUTING ITS EXTERNAL OPERATIONAL CAPACITY

Despite the success of some of its provinces, the UN emphasizes that the Islamic State “has not yet managed to reconstitute its external operational capacity and continues to rely on inspired attacks to demonstrate its relevance outside the conflict zones.” However, the terrorist group “is actively working to restore the ability to lead complex international operations.”

In this regard, the report emphasizes that “the issue of foreign terrorist combatants remains pressing,” since it is estimated that “between half and two thirds of the more than 40,000 combatants who joined the 'caliphate' are still alive. “, and recognizes that not all UN member states are in favor of repatriation of their nationals.

However, “despite the weaknesses of the current structure,” the report warns that there is still a threat of “a planned complex attack in Europe, especially at the hands of former operatives with the capacity to operate independently” and makes clear that in the Old Continent “indigenous terrorists continue to represent the main threat”.

Finally, the document indicates that, according to the calculations of the monitoring team of Islamic State actions, the terrorist group has financial reserves of between 50 and 300 million dollars, although the most accurate figure would be around 100 millions.

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