IS takes war to foes after setbacks
BEIRUT: Facing military setbacks in its self-declared caliphate in Syria and Iraq and intensified air strikes from a US-led coalition, Islamic State may have decided in September to take the fight to France and elsewhere. The ultra-hardline group has frequently threatened to strike inside Western countries since it established itself amid Syria’s civil war and then spread to northern Iraq last year, but one fighter reached inside Syria said its spokesman Abu Mohammad Al-Adnani had issued an instruction to act abroad.
“He sent a written order to all sectors and security brigades to start moving, including in Lebanon and Turkey,” the Syrian IS fighter said via social media from northern Syria. “Lebanon and France and other places are all part of the operations ordered two months ago.” Islamic State has said it was behind Friday’s killings of at least 132 people in Paris in revenge for France’s air strikes against it as well as twin suicide bombings which killed 43 people on Thursday in a Beirut stronghold of Lebanon’s Shiite Hezbollah, which is fighting the group in Syria.
The ultra-hardline militants have also claimed responsibility for bringing down a Russian airliner over the Sinai Peninsula on Oct 31 which killed all 224 people on board after Russia began its own campaign of air strikes in Syria. Turkish authorities suspect a high-profile British jihadist detained in Turkey last week may have been planning attacks in Istanbul similar to those in Paris, two security sources told Reuters on Sunday. The group has also threatened to attack Saudi Arabia, United States and Russia.
It was not immediately possible to verify the reported order, which Islamic State supporters and fighters said was given to dormant cells in several places. “Their messages to us are sent by blood and carnage so we send them their messages back in the same way, it is simple,” the northernSyria-based fighter said.
The group operates in a very secretive way and has a complicated structure. In general, its Caliph Abu Bakr AlBaghdadi is the ultimate decision maker but his deputy is also powerful. They both consult a Shura Council which is comprised of military, religious and other leaders who give advice to Baghdadi on strategy and military plans. It practices a strict version of Islam which considers all those opposing it as infidels who should be killed.
The younger jihadi generation looks up to Baghdadi as a powerful leader who will help establish a greater Islamic State that will conquer the world to spread Islam. It has drawn thousands of jihadists from across the world including Europe. But tighter security restrictions imposed by several European countries have prevented would-be jihadists from traveling and joining the group in Syria and Iraq.
To overcome this, the group has established contacts from its bases in the Middle East with these jihadists and encouraged them to operate as “lone wolves” or in small cells to carry out individual attacks inside countries where they live or work. According to one of the fighters, the dormant cells have no contact with each other but all answer to a special apparatus in charge of “foreign operations”, from which they take orders to attack. He did not elaborate.
Little is known about the head of this apparatus, who the fighter said is a Jordanian national who works closely with the leadership in Syria and Iraq and travels between the two countries. He is only known by a nickname. “He masterminds these operations, gets in touch with the followers and supporters there, guide them in training and operations and targets,” said a jihadi source close to the group. His account could not be independently verified. The New York Times cited officials on both sides of the Atlantic saying that the attackers in France had communicated at some point beforehand with known members of Islamic State in Syria. — Reuters
This undated image from the Islamic State’s English-language magazine Dabiq shows Belgian national Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who was identified by French authorities yesterday as the presumed mastermind of the terror attacks in Paris.