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IS Group a Rising Threat in Africa     02/16 06:12

   

   UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- The Islamic State extremist group poses a rising 
threat amid political instability in West Africa and the Sahel and remains 
intent on carrying out attacks abroad, the U.N. counter-terrorism chief said 
Thursday.

   Vladimir Voronkov reiterated U.N. findings that IS continues to pose a 
significant threat to international peace and security, especially in conflict 
zones, despite significant progress by U.N. member nations in countering the 
threat. The group has also increased operations in its former strongholds in 
Iraq and Syria as well as Southeast Asia, Voronkov said.

   Voronkov told the U.N. Security Council that in West Africa and the Sahel, a 
broad region cutting across the continent, the situation has deteriorated "and 
is becoming more complex," as local ethnic and regional disputes cross with the 
agenda and operations of the extremist group, which is also known by its Arabic 
name Daesh, and its affiliates.

   "Daesh affiliates continued to operate with increasingly more autonomy from 
the Daesh core," he said, warning that if this trend persists there is a risk 
"that a vast area of instability may emerge from Mali to the borders of 
Nigeria."

   Natalia Gherman, executive director of the U.N. Counter-Terrorism Committee 
Executive Directorate, said: "They are exploiting the political instability and 
expanding their radius of influence, their operations and territorial control 
in the Sahel, with growing concerns for coastal West Africa."

   "The African continent now accounts for almost half of terrorist acts 
worldwide, with central Sahel accounting for about 25% of such attacks," she 
told the council.

   Voronkov, who heads the U.N. Office of Counter-Terrorism, said countering 
the threat of terrorism in Africa remains a priority for his office.

   Gherman said that "enduring challenges persist in the Middle East and 
Southeast and Central Asia, with indications that Daesh is attempting to 
resurge in those sub-regions as well."

   The Islamic State group broke away from al-Qaida over a decade ago and 
attracted supporters from around the world. Despite its defeat in Iraq in 2017 
and in Syria two years later, U.N. experts said last month that there are still 
between 3,000 and 5,000 fighters. In Iraq, they are carrying out "a 
low-intensity insurgency with covert terrorist cells" while in Syria attacks 
have intensified since November, the experts said.

   In positive developments, he pointed to the group's prolonged delay in 
naming a new leader after the previous leader was killed, saying this "is 
assessed to reflect internal challenges and difficulties in ensuring the new 
leader's security." In countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Egypt and 
Mozambique, he said, terrorist activity by Islamic State affiliates "has been 
reduced by effective counter-terrorism efforts by member states."

   Government efforts to tackle IS financing are also continuing to produce 
results, Voronkov said. "Daesh's financial reserves are currently estimated 
between $10 million and $25 million, down from hundreds of millions a few years 
ago," the U.N. undersecretary-general said.

   In Afghanistan, Voronkov said, efforts by the country's Taliban rulers "have 
reportedly had an impact on the ability of the Daesh affiliate to conduct 
attacks inside the country." But U.N. experts have described ongoing ties 
between the Taliban and al-Qaida.

   Gherman said a priority for her committee is working with the 193 U.N. 
member states to address the use of new technology for terrorist purposes, 
pointing as an example to IS's increasing use of drones for intelligence 
gathering and attacks.

   Interpol Secretary General Jrgen Stock said the international police 
organization is working closely with U.N. counter-terrorism officials on a 
project to help law enforcement "identify and prevent the exploitation for 
terrorists purposes of enablers such as encryption services, video distribution 
tools and new propaganda platforms."

   He said Interpol also has a project to collect data on links between 
organized crime and terrorists, citing as an example the trafficking of cocaine 
through North and West Africa mostly by sea and along the Sahel route. "Our 
findings show interactions between terrorist groups and criminal organizations, 
where their interests and areas of operation converge to benefit both sides," 
he said.

   In combating terrorism, Stock said, Interpol is focusing on biometrics, 
border security and battlefield information.

 
 
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