The return of ISIS – Should we expect the second clash?
In March last year, the media raced to report that the anti-terror coalition recaptured the village of Baghouz in Syria – the ‘last bastion of ISIS’.
At the time, I published a short article [The world has announced a victory over ISIS. Rightly so?] which referred to that event, among others. I mentioned several examples of attacks and acts of terror that took place shortly after. In one of the first paragraphs, I predicted that that was not the end, that we had not liberated ourselves from the criminal organization called the Islamic State.
I mentioned the attacks in Sri Lanka which are marked on the 21st of April. The attackers were associated with ISIS. Several months later the leader of the self-proclaimed caliphate died during the US army operation. That was supposed to be the final and indisputable blow to ISIS. However, his successor appeared shortly after.
A new virus
Currently, due to coronavirus we have found ourselves in a new reality and the consequences are difficult to predict. How it is going to affect the economy and the public life is for the expert to talk about. I will leave this issue to you to reflect on as I do not feel competent enough to raise this topic. But I would like to talk about several events that have taken place over the last months but have not reached the media headlines.
These are terrorism-related events, often connected with the activities of ISIS. They have not been large-scale, but as always served the same goal – to intimidate and destabilize the society. The first example of these events occurred in Sweden in December last year. A 29-year-old man drove a car into a sports hall where a youth handball game was taking place. Later it turned out that he carried a letter in which he wrote that “people will be killed”. The perpetrator had already been convicted for attempted murder, among others, and during the attack he was on parole.
Video posted on Twitter by PeterSweden
ISIS will return to Iraq and Syria
In Iraq, ISIS has entirely changed its strategy and dropped its ambition to control large territories. Right now they are focusing on rebuilding the organization’s structure in hard-to-reach mountainous and desert regions in central and western parts of the country. They are marking their presence in the north as well, namely in those territories which they controlled at the peak of ISIS activity, spreading terror and committing genocide on the Yazidis. In March, during the operation of the US Special Forces, two American soldiers and twenty five terrorists were killed. Except for the limited activities of the Iraqi army and the anti-terrorist coalition, the terrorists have a lot of freedom of movement between provinces that are not prepared for the ISIS comeback. One of the most neuralgic places is the Qarachogh Mountains, seventy kilometers away from Qaraqosh – one of the largest Christian towns in Iraq.
At the beginning of April, ISIS carried out a large-scale attack on the town of As-Suchna in the Hims muhafazah. By their own accounts published through their social media and statements, ISIS claimed responsibility for forty smaller attacks in Iraq and Syria, only at the beginning of April.
I wrote in the article mentioned at the beginning of this text about a fatal beating of a young Yazidi girl in the Al-Hol refugee camp in Syria. It is a notorious camp where ISIS victims can be found next to terrorists’ wives and children. A shocking documentary about Al-Hol has been published by Sky News depicting how deeply the ISIS ideology is ingrained not only in the minds of the militants but also their wives and children.
‘We’re going to slaughter you’: The children of Syria’s IS camp
Terrorism during the pandemic
The situation we have found ourselves in is not optimistic. All we can do is wait until it improves and believe that some positive information about the fight with the virus will start emerging at last. Unfortunately, even now, when almost the entire Europe has been put under lockdown, terrorist attacks are still occurring.
Two weeks ago, a Sudanese stubbed two people to death and injured several others in the town of Romans-sur-Isère near Lyon. First, he attacked random passersby and then assaulted employees and a customer in a tobacco shop. As in the previous case, the Polish media repeated the information as it was published in the Western press stating that the motives of the attacker were unknown. However, according to the witnesses, he yelled ‘Allahu akbar’ before the attack, and when the police captured him he was praying on the sidewalk next to the scene of the incident. Moreover, notes were found in his apartment expressing his disappointment with life among the ‘infidels’, even though he applied for asylum in France. All that happened in a country under quarantine, where people are allowed out only to go to work or do essential shopping.
Islamic extremists also marked their presence in Thailand, where they carried out a bombing during a conference on the fight with coronavirus. Twenty five people were injured.
Where to search for hope?
I will go back to my thesis which appears in most of my publications. The lack of stabilization in Iraq and Syria carries with it a danger of ISIS reappearing on the map of global threats. Regular citizens like us have neither means nor power to change this on a global scale, but we can support local communities. If people go back to the regions destroyed by terrorists in 2014-2017, it may be possible to suppress such creations as ISIS. A strong and economically stable society taught by the recent years’ experience will want to get rid of the threat as soon as possible. Of course, it is merely one of many paths, but it is a relatively easy and worth one to take. We can fight terrorism in many ways. I’ve learnt that from personal experience. I also know that we all need to join this fight to make it effective.
Author: Dawid Czyż
Will Christianity disappear from the Middle East?
Looking at the current situation in Iraq, we can assume that within the next two decades this is exactly what is going to happen.