Despite losing terrain, Islamic State's
attacks rose in 2016: study
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[August 21, 2017]
By Fatima Bhojani
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Although Islamic
State is losing fighters and territory in Iraq and Syria, it remained
the world’s deadliest militant organization last year, according to a
report from the University of Maryland.
Islamic State operatives carried out more than 1,400 attacks last year
and killed more than 7,000 people, a roughly 20 percent increase over
2015, according to the university’s Global Terrorism Database. The
increase occurred even as overall militant attacks worldwide and
resulting deaths fell by about 10 percent in 2016.
Islamic State claimed credit for the van attack on Thursday in
Barcelona, Spain, that killed 13 people, as well as a knife attack in
Russia on Saturday that wounded up to eight people.
It is unclear if the claims are accurate. But senior U.S.
counterterrorism officials said the latest attacks fit a pattern in
which the group adapted to significant battlefield setbacks in Syria and
Iraq, where its control of territory peaked in August 2014, by
intensifying calls for attacks by individuals or small groups using
whatever means possible.
In addition to violence tied to Islamic State's core group in Iraq and
Syria, other groups affiliated with it carried out more than 950 attacks
last year that killed nearly 3,000 people, said the university report,
which was released last week.
In 2016, four additional groups pledged allegiance to Islamic State.
Affiliates in Bangladesh, Yemen, Libya, Afghanistan-Pakistan and the
Philippines killed significantly more people and executed more attacks
than in the previous year, the report said.
Most of the affiliates were already engaged in conflicts before allying
with Islamic State, said a senior State Department official. Islamic
State "was able to manipulate and hijack" them, said the official,
speaking on condition of anonymity.
The group also has issued more calls for its followers to carry out
lone-wolf attacks such as those that occurred in recent years in
Orlando, Florida, San Bernardino, California, London and Manchester,
England, and Nice, France.
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A rebel fighter takes away a flag that belonged to Islamic State
militants in Akhtarin village, after rebel fighters advanced in the
area, in northern Aleppo Governorate, Syria, October 7, 2016.
"During this same time period, we (also) saw an increase in the
number of individual assailants," said Erin Miller, author of the
University of Maryland study.
Since September 2014, when the international coalition fighting
Islamic State was formed, the militant group has encouraged
followers to strike coalition nations with any weapon available.
"If you are not able to find an IED or a bullet, then single out the
disbelieving American, Frenchman or any of their allies. Smash his
head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over
with your car," spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani
told the group's followers in 2014. He was killed by a U.S. air
strike last September.
"These calls increased as the U.S.-led coalition continued targeting
the group, with ISIS media releases and social media accounts of its
fighters regularly calling for attacks in warring countries," said
Rita Katz, director of the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors
militant groups online.
Since its first issue last September, Islamic State’s monthly
Rumiyah magazine has provided detailed attack guides, including
directions on how to perform stabbing and vehicular attacks, and to
strike economic and religious targets.
(Editing by Warren Strobel and Peter Cooney)
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