Pledges of al­le­giance to suc­ces­sor trickle in as group re­bounds from founder’s death

The National - News - - NEWS - TAY­LOR HEY­MAN

In the hours and days af­ter the an­nounce­ment of Abu Ibrahim Al Hashimi Al Qu­raishi as the new leader of ISIS, “wilay­ats” or prov­inces be­gan to pledge al­le­giance to him.

“Wilay­ats” of the group range from bands of un­der one hun­dred fighters to thou­sands in ar­eas across the Mid­dle East and North Africa.

The oaths of al­le­giance, called Bay’ah, are a con­tin­u­a­tion of a wider push from ISIS groups to show co­he­sion af­ter com­plete ter­ri­tory loss in Syria and Iraq in March said Raf­faello Pan­tucci, a se­nior as­so­ciate fel­low and the Royal United Ser­vices In­sti­tute.

“The fact that you saw these

The US State De­part­ment es­ti­mates the Kho­rasan prov­ince has up to 5,000 fighters, mak­ing it the largest group to pledge al­le­giance to Al Qu­raishi so far

things com­ing in quite quickly is a re­flec­tion of the fact that over the last few months.

Groups have been pledg­ing al­le­giance around the world to the or­gan­i­sa­tion, re­pledg­ing their al­le­giance and say­ing “the strug­gle con­tin­ues, we know the caliphate has gone but it might come back and in the mean­time the strug­gle con­tin­ues and we’re loyal to the group”.

At the time of writ­ing, ISIS groups in Pak­istan, So­ma­lia, Afghanista­n, Egypt and Ye­men had pledged al­le­giance via photograph­s and video re­leased on ISIS chan­nels hosted on en­crypted chat app Tele­gram.

“Of all of the branches and net­works of ISIS, ISIS-K [Kho­rasan, a group cov­er­ing Afghanista­n and Pak­istan] is cer­tainly one of those of most con­cern,” Act­ing Di­rec­tor of the US Na­tional Coun­tert­er­ror­ism Cen­tre Rus­sell Travers, told a Se­nate Home­land Se­cu­rity meet­ing on Tues­day.

“They have at­tempted, cer­tainly, to in­spire at­tacks out­side of Afghanista­n,” Mr Travers said, and that the group also seemed mo­ti­vated to carry out at­tacks them­selves.

The US State De­part­ment es­ti­mates the Kho­rasan prov­ince has up to 5,000 fighters, mak­ing it the largest group to pledge al­le­giance to Al Qu­raishi so far.

It an­nounced its sup­port of the new leader by re­leas­ing 16 pho­tos show­ing masked fig­ures pos­ing with weapons in front of the ISIS flag, the SITE In­tel­li­gence Group said.

How­ever, a num­ber of key re­gional groups are yet to openly prom­ise sup­port for Al Qu­raishi, in­clud­ing prov­inces in Turkey, Syria and Iraq, pre­vi­ous stronghold­s for the group.

For now, putting on a united front of ISIS or­gan­i­sa­tions and af­fil­i­ates may be the only plan Al Qu­raishi has. He is un­likely to lead a push for re­gain­ing ter­ri­tory, Mr Pan­tucci said.

“I think at this point demon­stra­tion of sur­vival, con­tin­ued ac­tiv­ity and ba­si­cally bid­ing their time is enough,” he said.

“We think these peo­ple are in a hurry to do some­thing, they’re not. They’re fight­ing on godly timescales which are even mil­len­nia rather than four-year elec­tion cy­cles.

“So from their per­spec­tive so long as they’ve got ‘wilay­ats’ around the world pledg­ing al­le­giance and the group is strong and go­ing for­wards, that’s enough.”

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