As the novel coronavirus was spreading like a bushfire throughout China, Iran and Europe, the pandemic couldn’t go unnoticed by the media apparatus of jihadi groups like the Islamic State (IS). A first reaction by the group was to define it as divine punishment for crimes against Muslims. China was hit first, in IS’ view as punishment for its ongoing crimes against its Uyghur population. When Iran followed, the reaction was that it was the nation’s devious interpretation of Islam that led to this onslaught.
Now that the “caliphate” has been decapitated, global jihad is ebbing. But from Nigeria to the Philippines, other developments deserve our attention.
The conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Libya and other countries have attracted tens of thousands of foreign fighters, who traveled to those areas of conflict to join the ranks of the so-called Islamic State (IS) and other armed groups. While this is not a new phenomenon, the size of the mobilization that occurred with the so-called Islamic State in Syria and Iraq was without precedent, with people from at least 80 countries traveling to join the jihadist group. Out of 40,000, it is estimated that about 5,000 came from Europe and almost 19,000 from the MENA region.
2003 Regime-change: hopes and controversies
Whereas most large European countries have been greatly affected by Islamic State-inspired terrorism, Italy has not seen the same degree of radicalization and extremist activity. With a much smaller number of foreign fighters, no terrorist attacks to date, and less developed terrorist networks, the country has been able to cope with the latest wave of transnational terrorism. With the offensives to crush the Islamic State now winding down, however, authorities fear that returning foreign fighters may generate a new surge in terrorist attacks.
The collaboration between ISPI and BBC News continues through the BBC’s “Expert Panel” initiative, which seeks to bring together major international think tanks and research centers.
Through this initiative, BBC News hopes to bring its readers around the world an exhaustive set of testimonies, data, and analyses from field experts, in order to be able to look past the news and better understand current events.
After 8 months of heavy fighting, it seems that Mosul is next to be liberated. However, this would not mark the complete defeat of IS in Iraq, nor would it signal the end of the crises affecting the country.
What will be the fate of the city and the other liberated territories? Could a victory over a common enemy re-ignite competition among Iraq’s various ethno-sectarian communities? And could this prompt further demands for autonomy by the Kurds, who played a central role in fighting IS? What are the interests and agendas of the main regional and international players for the future of the country?
To put all these questions into perspective, ISPI has just published the Report “After Mosul: Re-inventing Iraq,” edited by Andrea Plebani. The volume sketches out possible answers through a multi-pronged approach, bringing to light the complexity of the Iraqi scenario and the influence exerted by a broad array of actors.
Over the last three years Europe and North America have been hit by an unprecedented wave of terrorist attacks perpetrated by individuals motivated by jihadist ideology. Who are the individuals who have carried out these attacks? Were they born and raised in the West? Or were they an “imported threat”, refugees and migrants? How did they radicalize? Were they well educated and integrated, or social outcasts? Did they act alone? What were their connections to the Islamic State?
The answers to these and other questions have large implications for our understanding of the threat facing us and, consequently, help us design sounder policy solutions built on empirical evidence. This study, the first of its kind, seeks to analyze the demographic profile, radicalization trajectories and connections to the Islamic State of all the individuals who have carried out attacks.