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Threats posed by ISIS and foreign fighters

Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, Boko Haram, Islamic State, ISIS, Hamas, Hezbollah

Counterterrorism

Threats posed by ISIS and foreign fighters

For many western governments, the issue of Islamic State (ISIS) returned remain a pressing challenge alongside apprehension of domestic terrorist entities potentially spreading violent extremist ideology or carrying out terrorist attacks under the banner of ISIS or other radical Islamic terrorist outfits such as Al Qaeda, Hamas, Hezbollah, Boko Haram etcetera. Some argue the November 2020 terrorist attack in Vienna, in which four people were killed, marked the relaunch of Islamic State activities in Europe. Debatably, al-Qaeda supporters and sympathizers back in the day exhibited more fortitude as sleeper cell agents, sometimes waiting up to two or three years for marching orders before taking action. ISIS’ “flash to bang” indoctrination peddled vis-à-vis its follower base nowadays seems to have become rapid and has been tightening. Perhaps the case of the French middle-school teacher who was brutally murdered in October 2020 in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, France, by a militant jihadi adherent serves to demonstrate the point and perhaps draw attention to newly emerging forms of violence and terrorism in Europe. This particular terrorist act has once again intensified the public debate over a “radical atmosphere” in Europe, interspersed with diverse opinions on subjects such as secularism, terrorism, endemic violence, immigration, and freedom of expression.

According to European media, the suspect had contacts in Idlib in northwest Syria, and he was close to Hayat Tahrir Al-Cham (HTA), though the official investigation in France is still ongoing. Abdoullakh Anzorov was shown to be very active on social media and his tweets leave little doubt about his fundamentalist vision of religion. Nicolas Chapuis from Le Monde accessed Anzorov’s Twitter accounts and found 3,000-plus tweets published between June and October 2020, all of them under various accounts. In the beginning, he exchanged jokes with his connections. Gradually, his conscientious exposition of the religion of Islam grew stronger. “He detailed his vision of the world in binary terms, namely what is considered halal [permitted] and haram [prohibited],” Chapuis explained. Anzorov seemed vigilant in concealing extremist compulsions, however, and on several occasions, he had expressed his support to the Taliban in Afghanistan and to “Aqmi,” a branch of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. He retweeted a post referencing ISIS but was mindful not to immerse into discussing terrorism issues. Therefore, Anzorov managed to escape the radar of the French intelligence services.

There is argument about whether returning foreign fighters of the radical Islamic terrorist groups will opt at all costs for violence once returned to their home countries of origin will continue, until counterterrorism experts and organizations will get substantial evidences on the activities of these fighters.

Terrorists and lone wolves on the social media

Here a key issue needs to be addressed urgently. We have seen, terrorists and terror outfits are using social media – mainly Facebook and Twitter as well as communication apps such as Telegram in spreading their jihadist propaganda for years, although none of the governments in the world have ever taken any legal steps against those social media or communication apps for their inaction in stopping terrorists in using those platforms. We also know, jihadists and lone wolves have been using Google search engine in finding information about making bombs, while there are lots of websites dedicated in teaching terrorism and giving terrorist instigations to individuals – including children.

Although recently we have seen the social media taking actions against people sharing their political views or opinion about the 2020 American elections. Those social media even did not hesitate in banning a sitting president of the US with the allegation of inciting violence. But the same social media platforms turn a blind eye on the activities of the radical Islamic terrorist groups as well as radicalized Muslims or lone wolves, who continue to use these platforms in spreading terrorist agenda.

Covert operation of ISIS fighters

While we are very seldom hearing the news about foreign fighters and jihadist brides returning their home countries, despite the fact, such news coverages are of only a fraction of the real number. Unknown number of jihadist fighters are returning home and getting melted into the society and in most cases, they are not even coming under the radar of law enforcement or counterterrorism agencies. Most important point here is – none of the government in the world are even have any list of the total number of foreign members of ISIS or any other jihadist outfits. Meaning – even now – dozens or even hundreds of the ISIS fighters or members of Al Qaeda, Hezbollah and other terrorist entities might be walking on the streets of western cities posing grave threat to national security.

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An internationally acclaimed multi-award-winning anti-militancy journalist, research-scholar, counter-terrorism specialist, and editor of Blitz. Follow his on Twitter Salah_Shoaib

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