UN: Islamic State increasingly focused on international attacks
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UN: Islamic State increasingly focused on international attacks

Report says terrorist group moving into new phase as it faces pressure in Iraq and Syria

A French policeman escorts a convoy transporting Paris terror attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam to a Paris courthouse for his first questioning by anti-terror judges in Paris, on May 20, 2016. (AFP/Matthieu Alexandre)
A French policeman escorts a convoy transporting Paris terror attacks suspect Salah Abdeslam to a Paris courthouse for his first questioning by anti-terror judges in Paris, on May 20, 2016. (AFP/Matthieu Alexandre)

UNITED NATIONS — The Islamic State group is entering a new phase with an increased emphasis on attacking international civilian targets, according to a United Nations report circulated Thursday.

The report by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to the Security Council says the global threat from the Islamic State group remains high and continues to diversify even though its territorial expansion has been halted or even reversed in Iraq and Syria.

“Recent international attacks perpetrated by members of ISIL demonstrate that the terrorist group is now moving into a new phase, with the increased risk that well-prepared and centrally directed attacks on international civilian targets may become a more frequent occurrence,” the report states, using an acronym to refer to the group.

The report notes that in the last six months the Islamic State group has carried out attacks in 11 countries, excluding fighting in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan or Libya, killing more than 500 people and injuring hundreds more.

It also said that an increasing number of “foreign terrorist fighters” were returning to their home countries and that while some had done so after becoming disillusioned with the group, many returned with the intent and capability to “conduct terrorist attacks in their country of origin or residence.”

According to the report, the group is seeking to elevate the role of its affiliates and may even be transferring funds to them as they find themselves under increasing pressure in Iraq and Syria.

People gather at a memorial site at the Place de la Bourse in Brussels, Sunday, March 27, 2016. In a sign of the tensions in the Belgian capital and the way security services are stretched across the country, Belgium's interior minister appealed to residents not to march Sunday in Brussels in solidarity with the victims. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
People gather at a memorial site at the Place de la Bourse in Brussels, Belgium, March 27, 2016. (AP/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

The report also says that for the first time since the declaration of a “so-called caliphate” in June 2014, the group is under financial pressure with international air strikes reducing oil production by between 30 and 50 percent. Despite this, the report says the group does not appear to be lacking or short on arms or ammunition.

Meanwhile a US government report said Thursday that despite a spate of bloody incidents that made global headlines, the total number of deaths in terrorist attacks fell last year by 14%.

While IS remains the major threat and carried out devastating attacks in France, Lebanon and Turkey — violence and total deaths decreased in Pakistan, Iraq and Nigeria.

According to figures compiled for the US State Department, there were an average of 981 “terrorist attacks” per month worldwide in 2015, killing a total of 28,328 over the year.

This represents 13% fewer attacks and 14% fewer deaths than in 2014, according to the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START).

The START figures were released Thursday as an annex to the State Department’s annual strategic assessment — “Country Reports on Terrorism” — prepared for the US Congress.

This warned that the “global terrorist threat continued to evolve rapidly in 2015, becoming increasingly decentralized and diffuse.”

The report also placed some of the blame on nation states, warning that extremists exploit frustrations “where avenues for free and peaceful expression of opinion were blocked.”

Where countries, including US allies, have rigged judicial systems and abuses by security forces and corrupt politicians go unchecked, violent non-state actors can win support.

German authorities on Thursday arrested three Syrian men suspected of planning an attack in Dusseldorf for the Islamic State group, prosecutors said. They said the plot was thwarted by a fourth suspect, who went to French authorities with details earlier this year.

The plan called for two suicide attackers to blow themselves up in central Dusseldorf and then for further assailants to kill as many people as possible using firearms and explosives, prosecutors said.

However, they said there were no indications that they had started with concrete preparations.

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