The terrorist threat from al-Qaeda, the Islamic State group and their affiliated groups remains high in conflict zones in Africa and Afghanistan – and threat levels have increased in some regions, including Europe, experts said of the UN in a new report.
The panel said in its 23-page report that relations between Afghanistan’s Taliban leadership and al-Qaida remain close, and unnamed member states report that “the high concentration of terrorist groups” in the country is undermining the security situation in the region. .
The biggest threat in Afghanistan still comes from Islamic State “with its ability to project itself into the region and beyond”, the experts said in the report to the UN Security Council covering the period up to to December 16, 2023 and broadcast on Wednesday. Regionally, they highlighted a succession of attacks in neighboring Iran and Pakistan and threats in Central Asian countries.
The panel said, however, that while none of the al-Qaida-affiliated groups have regained the capacity to launch long-range operations, “they harbor global ambitions.” And it says “covert, calibrated efforts to rebuild capabilities” have been reported.
The Islamic State group split from al-Qaida more than a decade ago and has attracted supporters from around the world. Despite its defeat in Iraq in 2017 and in Syria two years later. The panel said the combined strength of IS in the two countries remains between 3,000 and 5,000 fighters. In Iraq, they are waging “a low-intensity insurgency with covert terrorist cells,” while in Syria attacks have intensified since November, experts said.
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The panel said the three-month delay in appointing current IS leader Abu Hafs al-Hashemi al-Qurayshi after the death of his little-known predecessor in combat “is considered indicative of difficulties internal and security challenges.
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Some unnamed UN member countries have said that the significant pressures exerted by counterterrorism operations in Syria and Iraq raise the possibility that the Islamic State could shift its direction and “center of gravity” towards Africa or Afghanistan, with Africa more likely, experts said.
In West Africa and the Sahel, the panel said, “violence and threat have once again intensified” in conflict zones, raising concerns among U.N. member countries. Experts point to “a deficit in counterterrorism capabilities,” which the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups continue to exploit.
“The situation is becoming increasingly complex with the conflation of ethnic and regional conflicts with the agenda and operations of these groups,” they said.
In East Africa, the experts said, the Somali government is continuing its military offensive against Al-Shabab, an affiliate of Al-Qaeda, but they said U.N. member countries believe that despite the significant losses due to airstrikes and military operations, “Al-Shabab remains resilient. It has between 7,000 and 12,000 fighters and an estimated annual income of $100 million, mainly from illegal taxes in the capital Mogadishu and southern Somalia, they said.
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The panel said al-Qaeda had improved media productions that appeared intended to restore the extremist group’s credibility, attract recruits and fill the void left by its failure to announce a new leader.
But that message changed after the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks in southern Israel, experts said.
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The attack killed 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and Hamas and other extremists took about 250 people hostage, according to Israeli authorities. In Israel’s ongoing offensive in response to Gaza aimed at destroying Hamas, more than 27,000 people have been killed, according to the territory’s Health Ministry, which does not distinguish between civilian and civilian deaths. fighters.
Experts said al-Qaeda focused on “the sanctity” of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site in a Jerusalem compound sacred to Jews and Muslims, certain communications emphasizing “the obligation for individuals to take action up to the limits of their own capacities. »
“Member states fear that Al-Qaeda may exploit the situation to regain relevance and exploit popular dissent over the scale of civilian casualties, thereby giving direction to those eager to act,” the panel said, and they “fear that the renewed narrative could inspire self-initiated attacks on a global scale.”
Across Europe, the experts said, “formal terrorist threat levels have increased…following the deadly attacks in late 2023 in France and Belgium, in addition to numerous non-fatal terrorist incidents and arrests in several European countries.”
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