Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 24 August 2019

ISIS still has $300 million to use for terror attacks, UN says

António Guterres repeats warning that group still has money and sidesteps factors behind its rise

Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi' as he purportedly appeared in a video released on April 29, 2019. The UN says Isis has been relying for months on attacks inspired by Isis ideology and carried out by its sympathisers rather than rank and file members of the weakened group.      
Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi' as he purportedly appeared in a video released on April 29, 2019. The UN says Isis has been relying for months on attacks inspired by Isis ideology and carried out by its sympathisers rather than rank and file members of the weakened group.      

The UN has repeated its warnings that ISIS could resume attacks on international targets, supported by up to $300 million in cash that remains in its possession.

In a report to the UN Security Council on Monday, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres suggested that a pause in ISIS attacks was an intermission “that may not last long, possibly not even until the end of 2019".

However, Mr Guterres did not address the societal and political conditions in Iraq and Syria exploited by the group that would be crucial to its rise in the last decade, before a US-led campaign stripped ISIS of its territory in the two countries.

A similar UN report presented to the Security Council on July 15 said warnings in a video appearance by ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi in late May, that ISIS remains relevant internationally, should be taken seriously. The group is now relying on attacks inspired by its ideology, rather than those mounted by bona fide rank and file.

“More ISIL-inspired attacks will occur, possibly in unexpected locations,” the July 15 report said.

The last high-profile international attack inspired by ISIS was the Easter Sunday suicide bombings in Sri Lanka that killed more than 250 people in April.

The US administration said in May that ISIS had lost “100 per cent” of its territory, after a mainly aerial US military campaign that gave cover for the Kurdish YPG militia to capture ISIS territory in eastern Syria. US support for Iraqi government forces was crucial for ISIS’s loss of its last stronghold in the Iraqi city of Mosul in July 2017.

Mr Guterres said while the demise of ISIS in Syria and Iraq had deprived the group of oil revenue, it retained a network of subsidiary groups and sympathetic individuals across the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Several senior ISIS figures, whom Mr Guterres did not name, had taken refuge in areas “where hostilities are ongoing,” suggesting that the group still has a societal base in Iraq and Syria.

Sunni discontent with the political domination of Iranian-backed Shiite groups in Baghdad after Saddam Hussein’s downfall in 2003 fuelled a marginalisation of Sunnis. Al Qaeda and ISIS took advantage of the situation and used it as a tool for recruitment.

In Syria, decades of Sunni disenfranchisement by the Alawite-dominated regime of President Bashar Al Assad, followed by the crackdown on the initially peaceful 2011 uprising against his rule, had contributed to the militarisation of the uprising, and the subsequent ascendancy of ISIS and other militant groups.

Updated: August 6, 2019 03:01 PM

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