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Is ISIS terror spreading its tentacles to other parts of the world?

A member loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) waves an ISIL flag in Raqqa June 29, 2014. The offshoot of al Qaeda which has captured swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria has declared itself an Islamic “Caliphate” and called on factions worldwide to pledge their allegiance, a statement posted on jihadist websites said on Sunday. The group, previously known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), also known as ISIS, has renamed itself “Islamic State” and proclaimed its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghadi as “Caliph” – the head of the state, the statement said. REUTERS/Stringer

After ISIS was forced out of Baghouz, Syria, the murderous terror group is starting to move its forces to Africa and Asia.  

After the last ISIS-held area in Syria fell in Baghouz, many people in the West are under the impression that the murderous terror group notorious for beheading Westerners, raping Yezidis and Christians en masse, and massacring minorities is now finished.  Even US President Donald Trump tweeted, “We have defeated ISIS.” However, what many people in the West fail to grasp is while the last ISIS strongholds in the Middle East may be gone, the murderous terror group has merely transformed from having a base to being a clandestine terror network, which is capable of emerging in any part of the world, terrorizing innocents across the globe.  

In a recent press release, the Meir Amit Intelligence and Information Center, while acknowledging that ISIS no longer controls a third of Iraq and Syria, a huge mass of land that included between 5 to 6 million people and a great portion of the world’s petroleum, the murderous terror group still has “active provinces in Iraq and Syria and in countries in Asia and Africa, where the local regimes find it difficult to uproot the organization.”  Furthermore, they added, “ISIS’s charismatic leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi and several other senior figures have so far managed to survive the blows and continue to lead the organization and control its various provinces, even if it is decentralized.  The ISIS brand has eroded to a certain extend but the organization and the ideology behind it continues to attract young Muslims in Iraq and Syria, in other countries in the Middle East and around the world.”

Shortly after the ISIS terror group fell in Baghouz, the New York Times reported that the ISIS flag was waving in Mindanao Island in the Philippines.  Last January, two bombs went off in a Philippines church, slaughtering 23 people.  ISIS claimed responsibility for that terror attack.   Since then, ISIS has been taunting the leadership in the country.  The Philippines government responded forcefully with airstrikes and 10,000 soldiers in Jolo.   Rommel Banlaoi, chairman of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research, stressed that ISIS is the “most complicated, evolving problem for the Philippines today and we should not pretend that it doesn’t exist.”

Aside from the Philippines, 40 ISIS terrorists of Bangladeshi origin are seeking to return to their country of origin in the wake of the fall of the Caliphate, the World Hindu Struggle Committee reported: “They are suspected to be a threat to the Bangladeshi Security Services.  According to the sources, they are all relatives of high level officials in the country.”  Nevertheless, the head of the Counter-Terrorism Unit in the country said that all of their names have been handed over to airport officials and that they will be arrested upon arrival. 

However, Shipan Kumer Basu, President of the World Hindu Struggle Committee, has emphasized that in the past the Bangladeshi government has turned a blind eye to ISIS supporters active within its borders in the name of promoting the ethnic cleansing of the Hindu, Buddhist, indigenous and Christian minorities from the country: “The local Islamists force the Hindus to convert to Islam by force.  They frequently murder innocent Hindu men and rape their women and girls. The minorities of Bangladesh are tortured daily.  The Hindus have not enjoyed the country’s independence from Pakistan.”  He stresses that these 40 ISIS terrorists returning from the Middle East have local supporters to hide amongst and that they thus could potentially manage to evade border security, thus enabling them to hide among local supporters and to build up a base in the country under a different name.

“ISIS has many supporters in Bangladesh,” Basu proclaimed. “I warned of this before. Nobody believed me. Moreover, the Sheikh Hasina government has repeatedly denied the existence of ISIS within the country. Hopefully, now the world will wake up and recognize the threat that ISIS poses to Asia.”

Furthermore, as ISIS makes inroads in Asia, the murderous terror group is doing likewise in Africa.  According to Nigerian Archbiship Ignatius Kaigama, “Boko Haram has territorial ambitions and is evolving into the Islamic State of the West Africa Province, manifesting a desire to have their own expanded Islamic country.”  Earlier this year, ISIS-backed terrorists overrun a Nigerian military base.  Towards the end of last year, they seized Baga.  In recent years, Nigeria has been overrun in many areas by Boko Horom and other Islamist groups, who are notorious for slaughtering, abducting and raping local Christians.   In the wake of the Caliphate collapsing in the Middle East, ISIS could easily claim a base in the war-torn African country.  

Nigeria is not the only concerning area in Africa.  Recently, Malian Prime Minister Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga visited Washington, DC in an effort to bolster US support for his country, warning that a weakened ISIS in Iraq and Syria could lead to an increased ISIS presence in Sahel: “The United States should have the same level of engagement in Sahel as it does in the Middle East.” In 2012, al Qaeda terrorists infiltrated Mali and destroyed numerous historic treasures in Timbuktu.  Only a French intervention prevented them from overrunning the entire country.  However, parts of Mali remain a hotbed for Islamist extremists, a situation that ISIS could exploit in the wake of the fall of the Caliphate.

The time has come for the American public to focus on how ISIS is spreading its tentacles in Africa and Asia.  Americans must stop living under the false illusion that ISIS is entirely defeated.  In the eyes of the murderous terror organization, they did lose a battle in Iraq and Syria but they have not yet lost the war.  If Americans give up on fighting ISIS now, the terror group can reemerge and everything that we gained in Iraq and Syria can be lost.  For this reason, Americans must start paying attention to how ISIS is reemerging itself in Africa and Asia, and to start investing resources in fighting against ISIS there.  At the same time, we must not close our eyes to the fact that ISIS can still remerge in the Middle East at any moment and can undo all of the gains that the International Coalition against ISIS made.  America must pay attention to what is happening in the world.  Isolationism is a failed policy, which always leads to more intense bloodshed at a later date.  

 

Author

Rachel Avraham
Rachel Avraham

Rachel Avraham is a political analyst working at the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights. For 7 years, she has been an Israel-based journalist, specializing in radical Islam, abuses of human rights and minority rights, counter-terrorism, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Syria, Iran, Kurdistan and other issues of importance. Avraham is the author of “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab Media," a ground-breaking book endorsed by Former Israel Consul General Yitzchak Ben Gad and Israeli Communications Minister Ayoob Kara that discusses how the media exploits the life stories of Palestinian female terrorists in order to justify wanton acts of violence. Avraham has an MA in Middle Eastern Studies from Ben-Gurion University. She received her BA in Government and Politics with minors in Jewish Studies and Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Maryland at College Park.

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