Daesh Threat Moves Online And Expands Across Africa And Conflict Zones
Only a few years ago, as Daesh was losing territories of it’s self-proclaimed caliphate, many warned that the fight against Daesh was not over. Indeed, some hotspots of Daesh support remained both in Syria and Iraq. It is currently estimated that more than 10,000 Daesh fighters remain in both countries combined. Furthermore, according to a new United Nations report, Daesh continues to adapt, using new technologies and expanding its presence into some of the world’s most fragile regions. As such, Daesh continues to pose a serious threat to peace and security.
In August 2021, U.N. counter-terrorism chief Vladimir Voronkov presented the Secretary-General’s latest report on the threats posed by Daesh and other terror groups. The report concludes that Daesh “continues to exploit the disruption, grievances and development setbacks caused by the pandemic to regroup, recruit new followers and intensify its activities – both online and on the ground.”
As Mr Vornkov explained, while Daesh remains focused on reconstituting its capabilities in Iraq and Syria, recent months have seen Daesh spreading across the African continent. Under the name of “Islamic State in the Greater Sahara,” the group has killed several hundred civilians since the beginning of 2021 in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger. It’s “West Africa Province” branch will likely gain from the weakening of Boko Haram. Mr Vornkov warned that the expansion of Daesh in Central Africa, and especially in northern Mozambique, will have far-reaching implications for peace and security in the region.
At the same time, Daesh is growing in other parts of the world which have been destabilized by conflict. As the report warns, in Afghanistan, Islamic State – Khorasan (IS-K) has expanded its presence in several provinces, despite various losses throughout 2020. The report warned that “The group has strengthened its positions in and around Kabul, where it targets most of its attacks against minorities, civil society actors, government employees and personnel of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces. Most recently, Daesh claimed responsibility for the brutal attack of 8 June in which 10 humanitarian deminers were killed and 16 injured in Baghlan Province.” IS-K is an affiliate of Daesh which is designated in the U.S. as a terrorist organization. According to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) estimates, in 2019, there were 10 incidents caused by IS-K, resulting in 485 civilian casualties, including 117 killed and 368 injured. In 2018, UNAMA identified 19 incidents with 747 civilian casualties, 233 killed and 524 injured.
In Afghanistan, the terror group has been working to regroup and rebuild, prioritizing the recruitment and training of new supporters, including from the Taliban and fighters from Iraq, Syrian and other conflict zones. The estimates of support vary from 500 to 1,500 fighters, and may rise to as many as 10,000 in the medium term. The situation is expected to deteriorate.
As Daesh is growing in strength in various parts of the world, we must remember the nature and scale of the atrocities unleashed by the group in 2014 and following. This should be a warning for all not to undermine the serious risk posed by the terror group.