The Islamic State terrorist group’s territory is eroding, but the millions it has stashed away to fund new attacks still makes it a serious threat, according to a February United Nations Security Council report.
The report calls the Islamic State “a covert network” that “remains a threat as a global organization with centralized leadership.”
“This threat is increased by returning, relocating or released foreign terrorist fighters,” it continued.
The number of Islamic State-inspired attacks declined in 2018, the report noted. “Nevertheless, Member States remain concerned at the continued explicit intent of (Islamic State) leadership to generate attacks, and the haphazard nature of inspired attacks, which makes defending against them difficult,” it states.
President Donald Trump’s aggressive plan of action against the Islamic State in Syria with the support of American allies has resulted in a loss of territory for the group, however, the security council said the Islamic State should not be written off.
“(The Islamic State) remains by far the most ambitious international terrorist group, and the one most likely to conduct a large-scale, complex attack in the near future. It retains an interest in attacking aviation and in the use of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear materials,” the report states.
Some UN Member States believe the terrorist group has access to between $50 million and $300 million. “Although its territorial losses have removed some sources of revenue, it has correspondingly fewer liabilities and is expected to be able to sustain its operations.”
The Islamic State “is assessed to have bulk-stored cash in its core area and smuggled some into neighbouring countries for safekeeping. It is also reported to have invested some of its reserves in legitimate businesses.”
The terrorist network’s “financial assets have largely been concealed, with a strategic view to funding larger-scale attacks once the opportunity arises again,” the report warned.
The Islamic State’s tactics in Iraq deserve special notice, according to the council.
“(C)ells in Iraq appear to be planning activities that undermine government authority, create an atmosphere of lawlessness, sabotage societal reconciliation and increase the cost of reconstruction and counter-terrorism. These activities include kidnapping for ransom, targeted assassinations of local leaders and attacks against State utilities and services,” it warned.
Terrorists are now trying to blend in with legitimate refugees escaping conflict, according to the report.
“(C)ells have been observed seeking access to camps for internally displaced persons for indoctrination and recruitment purposes, concentrating on people displaced from Diyala, Salah al-Din and Ninawa. Iraqi prisons and holding facilities, severely overcrowded with detainees, are assessed to be another potential source of radicalization,” the report states. “The Islamic State’s cells finance their own operations through activities such as extortion and kidnapping, and has “information technology expertise that can be exploited to advance the group’s aims.”
The report also contained concern that the next major battleground of the Islamic State could be in Africa.
“West African States continue to face significant challenges in establishing effective screening mechanisms for individuals detained in connection with terrorist groups and terrorist offences, including lack of capacity and of a comprehensive approach that includes common screening criteria and processes,” the report said.
“Some States of the region are considering initiatives that would exempt members of terrorist groups from prosecution if they surrendered to authorities and had not committed serious crimes, including genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity.”
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