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