Islamic State spreads to three continents
Report counters Obama claims that terrorist group is shrinking
The six Islamic State franchises singled out in the Congressional Research Service report, “Islamic State and U.S. Policy,” are not simply cells but viable armies with training bases, airto-air missiles and anti-tank weapons, and hundreds, if not thousands, of fighters.
The Islamic State terrorist group has created at least six functioning armies outside its Iraq-Syria base that threaten governments in Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan, according to a report to Congress.
Rather than shrinking, the Islamic State — also known as ISIL and ISIS — is metastasizing globally by attracting waves of henchmen in Libya, Egypt, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Afghanistan, the Congressional Research Service said in a June 14 report for lawmakers.
The fact that six irregular Islamic State armies are operating on three continents, not to mention various cells in Europe and the U.S., is in contrast to the Obama administration’s generally upbeat reports on containing the violent group.
In another break from that positive White House message, CIA Director John O. Brennan told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that, while the Islamic State has lost territory in Iraq and Syria, as well as thousands of fighters in those two countries, its ability to direct or inspire terrorist attacks remains robust.
“Our efforts have not reduced the group’s terrorism capability and global reach,” Mr. Brennan said.
The Islamic State’s ability to operate terrorist franchises across multiple regions presents formidable challenges to stretched U.S. forces now focused on the group’s IraqSyria base.
The six franchises singled out in the CRS report, “Islamic State and U.S. Policy,” are not simply cells but viable armies with training bases, air-to-air missiles and anti-tank weapons, and hundreds, if not thousands, of fighters.
The Islamic State in Egypt. Begun in 2014 in the Sinai Peninsula, the unit is attracting Bedouin Arabs, Palestinians from across the border and foreign fighters. Its soldiers have been photographed holding shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles that could bring down a commercial airliner. The Sinai group may have more than 1,000 members, whose siren call is that one day its followers will invade Israel.
It claimed responsibility for bringing down Metrojet Flight 9268 over the Sinai with a bomb disguised as a soda can, killing all 224 people onboard on Oct. 31, 2015.
The Islamic State in Saudi Arabia. It has taken credit for a series of attacks since 2014, and calls on its followers to kill the kingdom’s clerics and security forces. A group fighter blew himself up in a Kuwait mosque last year, killing more than two dozen people. The Saudi government has arrested more than 1,600 Islamic State followers, a number that indicates the group’s message is resonating in a country that already practices a strict form of Sunni Islam.
“[Islamic State] leaders claim to have established a caliphate to which all pious Sunni Muslims owe allegiance, directly challenging the legitimacy of Saudi leaders who have long claimed a unique role as Sunni leaders and supporters of particular Salafist interpretations of Sunni Islam,” the CRS report says.
The Islamic State in Libya. This is the terrorist group’s largest franchise, with as many as 6,000 fighters who threaten the shaky government in Tripoli. It controls large sections of territory, but is under pressure from government troops who have captured much of the coastal city of Sirte. Islamic State