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Islamic State is regrouping and getting stronger in Iraq again, claims report

According to a BBC report, the Islamic State has over 10,000 members in Iraq — including 4,000 to 5,000 fighters.

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New Delhi: Terror outfit Islamic State is regrouping and growing in strength in Iraq, according to a BBC report.

“There are growing indications that the Islamic State (IS) group is re-organising in Iraq, two years after losing the last of its territory in the country,” the report noted.

“Kurdish and Western intelligence officials have told the BBC that the IS presence in Iraq is a sophisticated insurgency, and IS attacks are increasing,” it added.

Emerging from the ashes of the caliphate 

IS shook the global security order by becoming the first modern terrorist group to establish a caliphate — a de facto quasi-state — in 2014. The caliphate included parts of Iraq and Syria.

The IS caliphate in Iraq and Syria was effectively dismantled in late 2017, and even the remaining small strongholds were taken back by early 2019.

However, according to Kurdish intelligence officials, a new and more sophisticated terrorist group has risen from the ashes of the caliphate, said the BBC report.

Much like the al Qaeda, it has no interest in establishing a caliphate. It is instead focusing on conducting lethal terrorist attacks on both the government and civilians.

“We see the activities are increasing now, and we think the rebuilding phase is over,” the report quoted Lahur Talabany, head of Zanyari Agency, which is one of the two intelligence agencies in Iraqi Kurdistan, as saying.

According to Kurdish intelligence officials, the IS has over 10,000 members in Iraq now, which includes around 4,000 to 5,000 fighters. There are also a large number of sleeper cells and sympathisers.

What explains the rise? 

According to Talabany, much like al Qaeda, the new IS operatives have gone underground in the Hamrin Mountains — “a long range of mountains, and very difficult for the Iraqi army to control”.

The intelligence chief told BBC that growing political isolation of the Iraqi Sunni population also aided the growth of the Islamic State.

Earlier, between 2006 and 2010, the IS had similarly banked on the isolation of Sunnis, who were disempowered after the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime in 2003. Since then, Shia-Iran has dominated politics in Iraq.

The growing political deadlock between the capital Baghdad and the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq is further fuelling the IS.

BBC noted that there is a “vast area of no man’s land in northern Iraq between Kurdish Peshmerga security forces and their Iraqi counterparts”. According to Talabany, IS is the only one patrolling the area.

‘Al Qaeda on steroids’

The IS has moved away from its strategy of “capture and hold” territory and has taken on a new form, reported BBC.

Talabany added that the IS have better tactics than the al Qaeda ever did.

“They are able to buy vehicles, weapons, food supplies and equipment. Technologically they’re more savvy. It’s more difficult to flush them out. So, they are like al-Qaeda on steroids,” he said.

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