Fearing revenge attacks, countries step up security after IS head killed

Homeland Security says it is at ‘heightened’ vigilance; British authorities reportedly increase monitoring of extremist suspects; Egyptian, Philippine authorities boost precautions

People look at a destroyed van near the village of Barisha, in Idlib province, Syria, October 27, 2019, after an operation by the US military which killed IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. (AP/Ghaith Alsayed)
People look at a destroyed van near the village of Barisha, in Idlib province, Syria, October 27, 2019, after an operation by the US military which killed IS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. (AP/Ghaith Alsayed)

Nations around the world beefed up security Monday amid fears that supporters of the Islamic State would seek to carry out revenge attacks in the wake of the terror group leader’s death during a US raid in Syria.

The US Department of Homeland security said it was “operating at a heightened state of vigilance.”

“Our security posture will remain agile, we will continue to mitigate and respond to the ever evolving threat landscape,” a spokesperson said, according to ABC News.

US President Donald Trump announced Sunday that IS head Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi died when he detonated a bomb-vest after being cornered by US special forces during an operation in Syria.

US President Donald Trump speaks in the Diplomatic Room of the White House in Washington, to announce that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had been killed during a US raid in Syria, October 27, 2019. (Andrew Harnik/AP)

In Britain, security officials upped their monitoring of key Islamist extremist suspects, amid warnings of possible reprisal attacks, Sky News reported Monday.

In Israel, an official with the Prime Minister’s Office, which oversees the country’s counterterrorism bureau, said there was no announcement on special precautions being taken.

Egyptian officials said they also stepped up security in parts of the country following the death of Baghdadi.

An explosion during an attack on an Egyptian police checkpoint in el-Arish, north Sinai, Egypt, on January 9, 2017. (Islamic State Group in Sinai/AP)

Egypt has for years battled an IS-led insurgency in the restive northern part of the Sinai Peninsula.

Security forces have also fought IS and al-Qaeda members in the western desert along the border with Libya.

Militants have carried out scores of attacks in recent years, mainly targeting security forces and minority Christians.

The officials spoke on conditions of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

Separately, Ahmed Hafez, spokesman for Egypt’s foreign ministry, called Baghdadi’s death “an important step in the quest towards eradicating terrorism.”

Men, allegedly affiliated with the Islamic State terror group, sit on the floor in a prison in the northeastern Syrian city of Hasakeh, on October 26, 2019. (FADEL SENNA/AFP)

Syrian Kurdish forces said they were beefing up security in prisons and detention facilities where tens of thousands of Islamic State militants and their supporters are held, including foreigners.

An official with the Kurdish-led internal security agency said on Monday the forces were “on high alert” in anticipation of possible riots or attacks on the guards in the prisons and displaced people’ camps in northeastern Syria.

Syrians ride a motorcycle past a burnt vehicle near the site where a helicopter gunfire reportedly killed nine people, including Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, near the northwestern Syrian village of Barisha in the Idlib province along the border with Turkey, October 27, 2019. (Photo by Omar HAJ KADOUR / AFP)

Another Syrian Kurdish official insisted that despite the Turkish invasion, their fighters are still able to secure the prisons with IS militants. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters.

One of the camps is home to 70,000 people, mostly IS family members. In addition, over 10,000 prisoners, including 2,000 foreigners, are held in detention facilities.

There was already fear of chaos over the fate of those detained in the wake of the Turkish invasion of northeastern Syria, which ushered in major troop changes in the area. Turkey moved in troops in areas along the border while Syrian border guards are deploying in others.

Filipinos walk past shuttered shops sprayed with pro-Islamic State graffiti in Marawi, on the southern island of Mindanao, on October 24, 2017. (AFP Photo/Ted Aljibe)

In the Philippines, a general overseeing the battle against Islamic State group-aligned local militants said he ordered intensified monitoring and tighter security in insurgency-affected areas in the country’s south following the death of Baghdadi.

This file image grab taken on July 5, 2014 from a propaganda video released by al-Furqan Media allegedly shows the leader of the Islamic State jihadist group, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, addressing Muslim worshipers at a mosque in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, held at the time by IS. (AFP)

Regional military commander Lt. Gen. Cirilito Sobejana told reporters that Baghdadi was not well known among younger Muslim militants in the southern Philippines. but that his death could be exploited to encourage retaliatory attacks.

Philippine security officials have blamed IS group-aligned militants for deadly attacks in the country, including the five-month siege of southern Marawi city in 2017 and a string of suicide bombing attacks in southern Sulu province this year.

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