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Daesh responsible for most attacks in Iraq and Syria: UN report
February 08, 2019
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UNITED NATIONS: International terrorist groups carried out more attacks in Iraq and Syria in the last six months of 2018 than in any other country, and Daesh extremists were primarily to blame, according to a new UN report circulated on Wednesday.

UN experts said in the report to the Security Council that Daesh and its affiliates “continue to pose the main and best-resourced international terrorist threat, while Al Qaeda remains resilient and active in many regions and retains the ambition to project itself more internationally.”

Even though Daesh’s territorial losses in Iraq and Syria “have forced the group to abandon notions of controlling a geographical so-called ‘caliphate’ for the near future,” the experts said its leaders continue to advance this aspiration in statements and online propaganda.

The panel of experts said Daesh “has not yet been defeated” in Syria — contrary to US President Donald Trump’s declaration of victory over the militant group in the country in December and announcement that all 2,000 US troops would be pulled out of Syria.

Daesh fighters remain under “intense military pressure” in their stronghold in eastern Syria, the experts said, but have “shown a determination to resist and the capability to counter-attack.”

UN member states, who were not identified, estimate the number of Daesh militants active in Iraq and Syria at between 14,000 and 18,000, the experts said.

This includes between 3,000 and 4,000 in the only remaining Daesh-held territory in Syria in the Middle Euphrates River valley near the Iraqi border, around the town of Hajin, they said.

The experts said the Al Qaeda affiliated group Hayat Tahrir Al Sham — estimated by one UN member state to have approximately 20,000 fighters in Idlib province which is the last major opposition-held stronghold — “remains the largest terrorist group in the country.” But another Al Qaida affiliated group, Hurras Al Deen, “is steadily growing and attracting fighters disillusioned with HTS,” they said.

In Iraq, the experts said member states report that the threat comes not only from Daesh remnants in the country but from Daesh fighters crossing the border from Syria.

In mid-2018, they said Daesh successfully operated checkpoints in northern Iraq from which it ambushed Iraqi forces operating in the area.

Daesh cells in Iraq “engage in activities aimed at undermining government authority, creating a sense of lawlessness, hampering societal reconciliation and increasing the financial burden of reconstruction and counter-terrorism,” the experts said. “Such activities include kidnapping for ransom, targeted assassinations of local leaders and attacks against government utilities and services.”

Globally, the experts monitoring UN sanctions against Daesh and Al Qaeda said UN members remain concerned about the terrorist threat in Afghanistan, the southern Philippines, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Africa’s Lake Chad basin and the Sahel.

In addition, they said, the issue of foreigners fighting for Daesh and Al Qaeda “remains acute,” though the number of Daesh combatants returning home or relocating has been slower than expected.

Here are the experts’ assessments of threats posed by Daesh and Al Qaeda in other regions:

NORTH AFRICA: In the last six months of 2018, Daesh expanded its area of operations in Libya and “continues to represent a substantial threat, both locally and to neighboring countries.”

Associated Press

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