IS look­ing to shift the fight to Europe

Or­gan­i­sa­tion on back foot in Iraq and Syria

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE -

MO­SUL: Se­nior Is­lamic State lead­ers have been forced to ac­cept they will lose their caliphate in Syria and Iraq and see ter­ror­ist at­tacks in the West as the way for­ward for ji­had, ac­cord­ing to for­eign fight­ers who are aban­don­ing the group as it faces an on­slaught in Mo­sul and an im­pend­ing at­tack on Raqqa.

The killings of some of their best com­man­ders, di­vi­sions and fear of treach­ery have con­trib­uted to the IS steadily los­ing ter­ri­tory, ac­cord­ing to two Mus­lims who re­cently de­serted and fled to Turkey.

At the same time, de­struc­tion of mu­ni­tions has led to the group de­pend­ing more and more on light weapons, sui­cide bomb cars and im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive de­vices to try to stem the of­fen­sives be­ing launched against it.

“When IS went into Iraq and took the ar­mour and Humvees from the Iraqi army, it was a big suc­cess be­cause it al­lowed them to move for­ward very fast.

“But once the bomb­ing started by the Amer­i­cans a lot of these ar­moured cars and Humvees just got smashed; mov­ing around in them just made you a big tar­get,” said Rachid, 27, who used to work as a me­chanic in Bel­gium be­fore his jour­ney to Syria.

“Now the lead­ers talk about ri­bat, which means de­fend­ing ter­ri­tory, not go­ing for­ward, so it is a dif­fer­ent kind of war­fare.

“They still have very good bomb-mak­ers and sui­cide cars are very good be­cause they are ef­fec­tive and re­ally make the en­emy afraid. But when the Amer­i­cans and the Rus­sians started their air strikes these cars were get­ting blown up be­fore they got to the en­emy, so are not so ef­fec­tive now and also num­bers of peo­ple vol­un­teer­ing to be sui­cide bombers has fallen.

“But you can get peo­ple pre­pared to be sui­cide bombers in Europe and they can cause much more dam­age. So, the lead­ers are say­ing that is where the strug­gle should take place. A lot of the broth­ers now feel Mo­sul can­not be held, Raqqa can­not be held. So, the fight is mov­ing to Europe”.

De­spite Bel­gium ap­pear­ing to be­come a base in Europe for Is­lamist ter­ror­ism, with fight­ers re­turn­ing from Syria be­ing re­spon­si­ble for mur­ders in Paris and Brussels, Rachid and his Bel­gian com­pan­ion, Yasin, claimed to have no knowl­edge of those at­tacks and hardly knew those who car­ried them out.

“They did not hold a ma­jlis (coun­cil) to dis­cuss what they were do­ing.

“Of course we were not in the rooms with these peo­ple when they were de­cid­ing what to do,” Yasin said.

“And you must know that a lot of these at­tacks have been planned in Europe, in Amer­ica, with peo­ple car­ry­ing them out just giv­ing bay’ah (al­le­giance) to the sheikh (Abu Bakr al-Bagh­dadi, the head of the IS). They are not ask­ing for in­struc­tions from Raqaa.”

Both the men, who are of Moroc­can de­scent, said they had gone to Syria af­ter be­ing an­gered by vi­o­lent sup­pres­sion of protests by Pres­i­dent Bashar al- As­sad’s regime. They had been in con­tact with other Euro­pean na­tion­als who were al­ready in the coun­try and found it rel­a­tively easy to cross the bor­der from Turkey.

Rachid and Yasin would face the prospect of lengthy prison sen­tences if they re­turn to Bel­gium. The lead­ers of the IS, they main­tained, have their own es­cape plan and would evade cap­ture or be­ing killed in Mo­sul and Raqaa.

“Look how long it took them to get to Osama bin Laden,” Rashid said.

“You will be sur­prised at what coun­tries may want to hide IS lead­ers and give them pro­tec­tion”, said Rachid.

“The cap­ture of Raqaa will not mean ev­ery­thing is fin­ished.” – The In­de­pen­dent

PIC­TURE: REUTERS

Iraqi tanks and ar­moured ve­hi­cles pause af­ter the lib­er­a­tion of a vil­lage from Is­lamic State mil­i­tants, south of Mo­sul.

PIC­TURE: REUTERS

Civil­ians re­turn to their vil­lage af­ter it was lib­er­ated from Is­lamic State mil­i­tants, south of Mo­sul, Iraq.

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