The terrorist threat remains high in conflict zones

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — U.N. experts said Tuesday that the threat from Islamic State and al-Qaida extremists remains high in conflict zones and neighboring countries, and warned that those conflicts will “incubate” the capacity for terrorist operations elsewhere in the world unless resolved successfully.

In a wide-ranging report to the UN Security Council, experts said both Islamic State and al-Qaeda are active in the areas of greatest concern – Africa, central and southern Asia and the “Levant” which includes Syria and Iraq.

Experts said foreigners who fought with the Islamic State group are “another significant potential threat multiplier” along with their dependents, and cited an unnamed country as saying an estimated 120,000 remain in 11 camps and about 20 prisons in northeastern Syria. .

Another country said about 10,000 “foreign terrorist fighters” remain in the custody of the US-backed and Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, they said.

The group of experts monitoring sanctions against al-Qaeda and Islamic State, also known as IS and ISIL, said that among those detained are 30,000 children under the age of 12, “who are at risk of being radicalized by ISIL’s extreme ideology.

It cited another unnamed country as saying that ISIL is seeking to create a new generation of extremists and is continuing its “cubs of the caliphate” approach adopted when its so-called caliphate ruled a significant swath of Syria and Iraq since 2014. -2017.

ISIL was defeated by Iraqi forces and the US-led coalition in 2017, but experts said it still maintains two separate organizational structures for Iraq and Syria and has “vibrant” and well-established regional networks in Afghanistan spanning southern Asia, in Somalia covering Mozambique and the Congo, and in the Lake Chad Basin also covering Nigeria and the western Sahel.

What is remarkable, the experts said, is that “two of the three most powerful Islamic State networks are in Africa, where some of al-Qaeda’s most dangerous affiliates are also located.”

The panel said “the most dynamic developments” in the first six months of 2022 covered by the report were the major liberation by ISIL of the northeastern Syrian city of Hasakeh in January, “freeing a large number of captives while suffering heavy casualties.” and the Feb. 3 killing of the Islamic State leader known as Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi in a U.S.-led counterterrorism raid near the Turkish border in northwestern Syria, experts said.

On March 10, ISIL acknowledged his death and announced his successor as Abu al-Hassan al-Hashemi al-Qurashi, but the panel said his true identity has yet to be ascertained although it has been widely discussed by many countries, with Iraqi Bashar Khattab. Ghazal al-Sumaida’i “is cited as the most likely candidate.”

Instead, experts said, al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri has regularly issued video messages “that provided near-current proof of life.”

They cited unnamed countries as saying that “al-Zawahri’s apparent increased comfort and ability to communicate has coincided with the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan (in August 2021) and the consolidation of power by key al-Qaeda allies in their de facto administration.”

Surveying the global situation, the commission said, “the international context is favorable to al-Qaeda, which intends to re-establish itself as the leader of global jihad.”

“Al Qaeda’s propaganda is now better developed to compete with ISIL as the key player in inspiring the international threat environment and may eventually become a greater source of directed threat,” the experts said.

According to an undisclosed country, Al Qaeda’s global leadership coordinating committee has relegated Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to its African affiliates.

The panel cited several countries that said ISIL’s leadership controls about $25 million in reserves, with much of the cash remaining in Iraq. It said spending mainly on fighters and their family members exceeded current income, but additional sources of income such as extortion, kidnapping for ransom, direct donations and income from trade and investment had helped ISIL “adapt and sustain itself”. .

Experts said member states report that the ability of ISIL leaders to direct and maintain funding to global affiliates “remains resilient.”

One country highlighted South Africa’s “emerging importance in facilitating capital transfers from ISIL leadership to its African affiliates,” the panel said, adding that it was “aware of several large transactions totaling more than $1 million.”

Experts said they continue to receive reports of Islamic State and al-Qaeda “using cryptocurrencies to solicit donations and support activities.”

An unidentified country said ISIL “provided classes on how to open digital asset wallets and transact using cryptocurrencies,” while another expressed concerns about “transactions totaling more than $700,000 involving privacy-enhancing cryptocurrencies.” to finance ISIL operations in Afghanistan, which shows its growing sophistication in using lesser-known cryptocurrencies, the committee said.

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