Is ISIS Coming Back?

Uncategorized - November 25, 2023

Baghuz, the last stronghold of the Islamic Caliphate, fell more than four years ago when on 19 March 2019 the Syrian Democratic Forces, after a military clash, announced the definitive surrender of Isis in Syria. Now, what it controls in Syria are small portions of territory where it attacks the police and army but no longer has the strength it once had. It is not credible that the same terrorist organization is reborn again in those same territories. The reasons are various: changed political conditions in Syria and Iraq, minimal financial resources, scarce equipment to fight and a strong popular detachment from radical Islam with consequent numerical scarcity. In addition, on August 3, the Islamic State itself confirmed the killing of its leader Abu al-Husayn al-Qurayshi. It happened during clashes with the rival Hayat group Tahrir al-Sham which controls part of western Syria. It is the third time that their leader has died in the last two years. Now the new leader is Abu Hafs al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi, we have neither photos nor public statements of him.

So why talk about a return of ISIS? Because some US officials, in charge of monitoring the Islamic State, have noticed worrying signs regarding the reorganization of the terrorist group’s leadership. In particular, the reorganization would be taking place in nine regional structures but which refer to a central leadership. Local structures share technical knowledge, resources and procedures on how to carry out attacks via the internet. The last chronologically took place in Pakistan, in the north-western district of Bajaur, on the border with Afghanistan. ISIS has claimed responsibility for the explosion of the bomb protagonist of a suicide bombing. There were 56 dead. The blast occurred during a rally of the Pakistani Jamiat Ulema Isla-Fazl (JUI-F) party. The latter, despite having radical Islamic positions, is against the use of weapons to acquire power. In addition, he has always considered himself close to the Pakistani Taliban. The official motivation with which he claimed responsibility for the attack was this: “The attack comes in the natural context of the ongoing war waged by the Islamic State against ‘democracy’ as a hostile regime to true Islam and in conflict with its divine law, ” Islamic State’s Amaq news agency wrote. Afghanistan is one of the areas where Isis is directing most of its efforts.

Returning to the reorganization of Isis, particular attention must be paid to the African continent. With the initials Isgs in the Sahel and Iswap in Nigeria, it is in countries such as Mali and Burkina Faso that they are conquering important parts of the territory. According to the latest ranking of the Global Terrorism Index 2023, the Sahel is the new epicenter of world terrorism. This is due to: presence of local militias, armed jihadist groups such as Boko Haram, al-Shabaab and Iswa. In particular, in Burkina Faso and Mali, two countries exactly on the border with Niger. Burkina Faso and Mali are the two countries in the world for the total number of victims: 1135 the first, 944 the second. And, even more serious, links have been born and are being consolidated with transnational organized crime. Natural resources are only part of trade since what really interests them is drug trafficking. The goal is to become an intermediate stage between South America and Europe. It had never happened until today, explains Hans-Jakob Schindler, senior director of the Counter-Extremism Project, that Isis and Al Qaeda managed to penetrate so deeply into cultural and ethnic circles external to the Arab leadership. What has allowed all of this is the disengagement of the West and the United Nations in the area.