A recent UN Report raises serious concerns over ISIS's continued attempts to revive itself in its core zone as well as expanding and strengthening its affiliates in several countries of Asia and Africa
|The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army|
On February 3, 2022, US President Joe Biden announced that the US military undertook an operation in Atme in Syria the previous night, resulting in the death of Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi, Chief of the Islamic State (ISIS). The news was surprising since Ibrahim was reportedly in custody in Iraq - so how did he land up in Syria? More interestingly, the story is same as that of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (previous head of ISIS) - that Ibrahim blew himself with a bomb along with his family members when the US forces were approaching. There are no reports of his body being found, confirming he is actually dead.
It may be recalled that Baghdadi’s death was reported many times, with him resurfacing till his final death because the CIA found him of no further use. The ISIS and Baghdadi were trained and equipped in Turkey by the US and British. How the ISIS was unleashed in Iraq-Syria thereafter, with Mosul in Iraq falling first to ISIS in 2014 is common knowledge. Veteran General Michael Flynn, 25th US National Security Advisor under Donald Trump had publicly told media that “The rise of Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra was the willful decision of the US.”
There have been reports of the US airdropping arms for the ISIS and Al Qaeda in Iraq-Syria. The US has been inducting ISIS cadres into northern Afghanistan, using Pakistan as conduit, to threaten Central Asia and Russia. Presently, the US-UK and some western nations have inducted over 6,000 mercenaries into northern Ukraine to fight the Russians, in addition to neo-Nazis trained by CIA and MI6 in Azov (Ukraine), as reported by Scott Ritter, former US Marine Corps intelligence officer.
ISIS cadres across the world have pledged their allegiance to Abu Hassan, so have the ISIS cadres in Pakistan and ISIS terrorists from different parts of India
Over the past month the CIA is pumping ISIS cadres into Ukraine. It would not be surprising if Ibrahim resurface in Ukraine in future since the Joe Biden administration is intent on fuelling the Ukraine conflict. Ibrahim would have been ideal to mastermind the massacre in Bucha, Ukraine, killing 300 civilians, for which the US is blaming Russia.
The ISIS has now appointed Abu Hassan Al-Hashimi Al-Qurayshi as their new leader after Ibrahim was reportedly killed in Syria on February 2. Abu Hassan is an Iraqi terrorist whose appointment as the second Caliph of the ISIS was announced by ISIS media on October 31, 2019, less than a week after the death of Baghdadi.
ISIS cadres across the world have pledged their allegiance to Abu Hassan, so have the ISIS cadres in Pakistan and ISIS terrorists from different parts of India. Photographs, published by ISIS media, of Indian supporters have their faces covered but one photograph shows a grenade (marked in red) of the type that was used in the grenade attack on an army camp in Pathankot on November 21, 2021. This indicates presence of ISIS in Punjab.
After the capture of ISIS Twitter handler Mehdi Biswas alias Shami Witness of Bengaluru in 2014, a former DG NIA went on record to say there are some 100 individuals in India engaged in similar recruitment for ISIS. The flatness of the internet and social media makes propagation of terrorism and radicalisation so very simple. In January 2017, the NIA suspected 22 Kerala youths having joined ISIS training in Afghanistan. Similar reports talked of youth from other parts of India also joining ISIS.
The presence of Salafi and his three aides signified the rise of Islamic State in J&K, which was being denied or talked in hushed tones despite proliferation of ISIS flags
The first official recognition of ISIS presence in J&K came with ISIS claiming responsibility for attacking a police party in Zakura area of Srinagar on November 17, 2017 killing one sub-inspector and injuring one SPO. ISIS again claimed responsibility for killing a policeman guarding residence of Hurriyat leader Fazal Haq Qureshi in Soura area of Srinagar on February 25, 2018. Later, of the four terrorists killed in Anantnag area of J&K on 22 June 2018, police identified Dawood Ahmad Salafi, Chief of ISJK (ISIS affiliate). The presence of Salafi and his three aides signified the rise of Islamic State in J&K, which was being denied or talked in hushed tones despite proliferation of ISIS flags.
It is generally opined that the AQIS has more influence in the sub-continent compared to ISIS. However, the notion that Al-Qaeda-AQAIS and ISIS are at loggerheads has been dispelled on many occasions; their aims coalesce in concert with Pakistan’s ISI. Intelligence reports had also indicated that ISIS and Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) have joined hands under tutelage of Pakistan’s ISI with eyes on South Asia. The Bhopal-Ujjain train blast on March 17, 2017 was heralded as ISIS’s first strike in India. This module, led by self-styled ‘Emir’ Atif Muzaffar, after forming a 'core' group of ISIS-influenced youths in Kanpur in February 2016 contacted immigration agents in cities, travelling to Srinagar, Amritsar, Wagah and Jaisalmer, exploring ways to exfiltrate to Pakistan.
The '14th report of the Secretary-General on the threat posed by ISIS to international peace and security and the range of United Nations efforts in support of Member States in countering the threat', released on January 28, 2022, notes that the security landscape in Afghanistan changed dramatically following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021. The report says that ISIS aims to expand into neighbouring Central and South Asian countries and is viewed by the Taliban as its primary armed threat.
According to a recent UN Report, ISIS-K has increased from earlier estimates of 2,200 fighters to now approaching 4,000 following the release by the Taliban of several thousand individuals from prison
But the statement that Taliban views ISIS as an armed threat is a misnomer. The 12th report by the UN Secretary General had highlighted that Shahab al-Muhajir, the leader of ISIS-K, maintained familial ties to the proscribed Haqqani Network as well. Also, report of the Taliban Sanctions Committee recognised the continuation of links between Taliban, especially through the Haqqani Network, and al Qaeda and other terrorist groups in the neighbourhood. The Taliban, Haqqani Network and ISIS/ISIS-K are all interconnected though the CIA would want us to believe differently.
Speaking at the Security Council briefing on 'Threat to International Peace & Security Caused by Terrorist Acts' that took up UNSG report on February 9, 2022, India's Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador T.S. Tirumurti said that India has been reiterating close links between proscribed terrorist entities such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and other terror groups, including the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM). It is essential that we don't lose sight of the ease with which the proscribed Haqqani Network, with support from their patron statehave worked along with prominent terrorist organisations like al-Qaeda, ISIS-K in South Asia."
Referring to the recent UN Report that the ISIS-K has increased from earlier estimates of 2,200 fighters to now approaching 4,000 following the release by the Taliban of several thousand individuals from prison, Tirumurti stressed that the report raises serious concerns over ISIS's continued attempts to revive itself in its core zone as well as expanding and strengthening its affiliates in several countries of Asia and Africa, which is a matter of grave concern.
The recent attack by an IIT Mumbai graduate armed with a sickle on two Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) sentries at UP’s Gorakhnath temple may or may not have an ISIS angle but vigilance is required against new recruits and ‘sleeper cells’. India also needs to take note of the rising ISIS threat in backdrop of Talibanisation of Pakistan in the offing.