IS looking to shift the fight to Europe
Organisation on back foot in Iraq and Syria
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
Iraqi tanks and armoured vehicles pause after the liberation of a village from Islamic State militants, south of Mosul.
Civilians return to their village after it was liberated from Islamic State militants, south of Mosul, Iraq.