UN experts: Daesh aims for resurgence in Iraq, Syria

This file photo uploaded on June 14, 2014 on the jihadist website Welayat Salahuddin allegedly shows militants of Daesh executing dozens of captured Iraqi security forces members at an unknown location in the Salaheddin province. (AFP)
Updated 01 August 2019

UN experts: Daesh aims for resurgence in Iraq, Syria

  • The process is more advanced in Iraq, where Daesh leader Al-Baghdadi and most of the militant group’s leadership are now based

UNITED NATIONS: Leaders of the Daesh extremist group are aiming to consolidate and create conditions for an “eventual resurgence in its Iraqi and Syrian heartlands,” UN experts said in a new report.
The panel of experts said in a report to the Security Council this week that the process is more advanced in Iraq, where Daesh leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi and most of the militant group’s leadership are now based following the fall of the so-called “caliphate” that he declared in the two neighboring countries.
In Syria, where the last Daesh stronghold was toppled in March, the Daesh covert network is spreading and sleeper cells are being established at the provincial level, mirroring what has been happening in Iraq since 2017, the report said.
As for Al-Qaeda, the panel said the extremist group “remains resilient” though its immediate global threat is not clear, with its leader, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, “reported to be in poor health and doubts as to how the group will manage the succession.”
The report said “the most striking international developments” during the first six months of 2019 include “the growing ambition and reach of terrorist groups in the Sahel and West Africa,” where fighters from Daesh and Al-Qaeda are collaborating to undermine fragile countries. “The number of regional states threatened with contagion from insurgencies in the Sahel and Nigeria has increased,” said the experts, who monitor UN sanctions against both extremist groups.
In a video message in late April, Al-Baghdadi said Daesh “still aspires to have global relevance and expects to achieve this by continuing to carry out international attacks,” the panel said.
The experts said Daesh is currently dependent on attacks that it inspires like the Easter Sunday church bombings in Sri Lanka. Al-Baghdadi mentioned the bombings but the panel said Daesh leaders “clearly knew nothing” in advance.
Whether or not the Sri Lankan attacks were motivated by a previous attack on Muslims at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, in March, “the narrative of interfaith conflict is concerning,” the panel added.
Looking ahead, the experts said the Daesh group “will reinvest in the capacity to direct and facilitate complex international attacks when it has the secure space and time to do so.” The panel added, “The current abatement of such attacks, therefore, may not last long, possibly not even until the end of 2019.”
The panel said up to 30,000 foreign fighters and others who traveled to the so-called “caliphate” that Daesh established in parts of Iraq and Syria may still be alive, “and their future prospects will be of international concern for the foreseeable future.”
Outside Syria and Iraq, the experts said, Daesh and Al-Qaeda are contending “for dominance and international relevance.” They said that in Afghanistan, concerns remain about short-term and long-term threats posed by groups affiliated with both Daesh and Al-Qaeda as well as “foreign terrorist fighters who have established themselves on Afghan territory.”
Here are the experts’ assessments of threats posed by Daesh and Al-Qaeda in other regions:
ARABIAN PENINSULA — Regional member states say the temporary strategy of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is to prioritize the fight against the Daesh affiliate in Yemen to maintain its dominant position, rather than fight Houthi Shiite rebels who are in a war with the government, which is backed by a Saudi-led coalition. An unidentified country reported that Al-Qaeda has been unable to establish itself in Saudi Arabia.
AFRICA — Daesh activity in southern Libya gained momentum as a result of preoccupation with fighting around the capital of Tripoli, and the extremist group is assessed to have substantial financial resources seized when it controlled the city of Sirte. A sharp rise in violence and recruitment efforts in West Africa, motivated by Daesh or Al-Qaeda affiliates, has been exacerbated “by porous borders and authorities ill-equipped to confront the growing threat.” In Somalia, Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Shabab has shifted from high-impact attacks to sustained, frequent and eventually daily multiple attacks.
EUROPE — Online propaganda encouraging low-tech, Daesh-inspired attacks is still available but member states report a reduced incidence of successful attacks. Nonetheless, European countries “assess that the risk remains high.”
ASIA — Countries in central Asia see the greatest threat from their nationals returning from Iraq and Syria, and to a lesser extent from Afghanistan. In Southeast Asia, a series of successful and thwarted attacks attributed to Daesh-affiliated groups “underscores the persistent nature of the threat in the region.”


Al-Sistani calls for new election law as two more protesters killed in Baghdad

Updated 32 sec ago

Al-Sistani calls for new election law as two more protesters killed in Baghdad

  • Al-Sistani emphasized support for the demonstrators in his weekly religious sermon
  • His comments came as protesters called for large protests to take place on Friday

BAGHDAD: Iraq’s most influential Shiite religious leader called Friday for a new election law that would restore public confidence in the system and give voters the opportunity to bring “new faces” to power as two protesters were killed and at least 25 others wounded in ongoing confrontations with security forces in a central Baghdad square.

Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani emphasized support for the demonstrators in his weekly religious sermon, saying none of their demands have been met so far and that electoral reform should be a priority.
His comments came as two protesters were killed when police fired live ammunition and tear gas at hundreds of protesters who removed concrete barriers and streamed into Khilani Square, which has been at the center of clashes for the past days.
Friday’s deaths brought to three the number of protesters killed in the past 24 hours.
At least 320 people have been killed and thousands have been wounded since the unrest began on Oct. 1, when protesters took to the streets in the tens of thousands outraged by what they said was widespread corruption, lack of job opportunities and poor basic services despite the country’s oil wealth.
The latest clashes broke out late Thursday in Baghdad’s Khilani Square, according to Iraqi medical and security officials who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. The violence erupted hours after demonstrators celebrated Iraq’s 2-1 World Cup qualifier win over Iran.
Demonstrations have mostly been taking place in Baghdad’s Tahrir and Khilani squares and the predominantly Shiite southern provinces, following tough measures by Iraqi security forces to calm down on protests.
The powerful cleric, who’s opinion holds major sway over Iraqis, said a fair electoral law should give voters the ability to replace current political leaders with “new faces.”
“Passing a law that does not give such an opportunity to voters would be unacceptable and useless,” he said in his weekly sermon Friday.
“If those in power think they can evade dealing with real reform by procrastination, they are mistaken,” Al-Sistani said. “What comes after the protests is not the same as before, so be careful,” he warned.
He said corruption among the ruling elite has reached “unbearable limits” while large segments of the population are finding it increasingly impossible to have their basic needs met while top leaders “share the country’s wealth among themselves and disregard each other’s corruption.”
“People did not go out to demonstrations calling for reform in this unprecedented way, and do not continue to do so despite the heavy price and grave sacrifices it requires, except because they found no other way to revolt against the corruption which is getting worse day after day, and the rampant deterioration on all fronts,” he said.
On Monday, Al-Sistani said he backed a roadmap by the UN mission in Iraq aimed at meeting the demands of the protesters, but expressed concern that political parties were not serious about carrying out the proposed reforms.