The United Nations has warned that a new wave of terror attacks could be launched by the end of the year.
In a report, specialist monitors at the UN security council paint a worrying picture of a global Islamist extremist movement that continues to pose a significant threat despite recent setbacks.
The Guardian reports that the report raises concerns about up to 30,000 foreigners who travelled to the Islamic State “caliphate” to fight and who may still be alive, with the possibility they could join al-Qaida or another rival organisation.
The report is based on information supplied by intelligence agencies of UN member states, and provides a glimpse of collective thinking among security services around the world.
Despite the geographic Islamic State ceasing to exist it is agreed the factors that led to its formation are still present, meaning an end to the fundamentalist threat is not close.
Though there have been fewer successful attacks since 2015 and 2016, when extremists killed hundreds of people in France, Belgium and Germany, the threat to Europe “remains high”.
A major concern is the radicalisation of prison “inmates afflicted by poverty, marginalisation, frustration, low self-esteem and violence ”.
The report says that a further challenge is the imminent release of some of the first wave of returnees to be imprisoned after returning from the Islamic State’s caliphate, which was established across a swath of land in Iraq and Syria in 2014.
Concerns are also raised about the limited efficacy of de-radicalisation programmes.
Western countries have so far been unwilling to take back citizens who went to Syria to join Islamic State - such as Shamima Begum - arguing they would be a security risk if they return home.
It’s believed as many as 6,000 of European citizens travelled to Iraq and Syria to join Isis or other extremist groups.
Of these one third is believed to have been killed, 2,000 others travelled elsewhere while 2,000 returned to Europe.
And on top of that it is estimated Isis has access to between $50m and $300m remaining from the revenues of the caliphate and is using propaganda to maintain the group’s reputation as the leading global terrorist brand – the “virtual caliphate”.
“When it has the time and space to reinvest in an external operations capability, Isil [Islamic State] will direct and facilitate international attacks in addition to the Isil-inspired attacks that continue to occur in many locations around the world …. The current abatement of such attacks, therefore, may not last long, possibly not even until the end of 2019.”
The report says Isis leaders did not have advanced knowledge about bloody attacks on churches and hotels in Sri Lanka.
A major part of the report is devoted to west Africa, which has seen a sharp rise in violence motivated by Islamic militants.
Intelligence services appear divided over whether the newly established Isis affiliate in central Africa, based in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo posed a genuine threat or had any substantial links to the main group.
Some central African states expressed concerns that the group might evolve, attract returning and relocating foreign terrorist fighters and establish links with other Isis affiliates operating in Africa. But other services said the claims were “opportunistic”.
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