US warns law enforcement partners of spreading Islamic State threat

US State Department designated 7 Islamic State linked groups

Afp March 01, 2018
US State Department designated 7 Islamic State linked groups PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE

WASHINGTON: The United States warned judicial and law enforcement officials from around the world of the dangers posed by an increasingly de-centralized Islamic State group spreading to new regions.

At a two-day conference in Washington that concluded Wednesday, the US State Department designated seven Islamic State linked groups as terrorist threats - underlining the reach of the network.

The Islamic State group's former stronghold in its so-called 'caliphate' in eastern Syria and northern Iraq has been all but destroyed by US backed military operations, but the militants are adapting.

Strikes on east Syria's last Islamic State pocket kill 25 civilians

And, with overt military targets harder to find, the next stage in the fight against the extremists will lean more heavily on law enforcement and civilian prosecution of suspected militants.

"I think what we're seeing is Islamic State becoming increasingly decentralized," said the State Department's counterterrorism coordinator, Nathan Sales, who addressed the meeting.

"Islamic State is evolving and adapting," he said, explaining the decision to blacklist the Islamic State regional groups under separate designations.

"You're seeing groups from all corners of the world motivated by the same bloody and deadly Islamic State ideology, using the same sort of techniques targeting innocent men, women and children."

In Nigeria and the Lake Chad region a group that split from the local Boko Haram armed group and led by Boko Haram founder Mohammed Yusuf's son Abu Musab al-Barnawi is now designed as Islamic State-West Africa.

In the Philippines, the list now includes ISIS-Philippines and its ally the Maute Group, which triggered the siege of the city of Marawi in May 2017 and has attempted to bomb the US embassy in Manila.

The Islamic State-Somalia group began as a small 20-strong splinter from the Al-Shabaab movement under Abdiqadr Mumin and his deputy Mahad Moalim, but has grown in strength and imported arms from Yemen.

Washington is also concerned about the group's growing foothold in the Indian subcontinent, where the now designated Islamic State Bangladesh launched its campaign by killing an Italian aid worker in 2015.

Syria is bleeding

In Egypt, the US terror designations now list Islamic State Egypt as a separate group from Islamic State Sinai province, with both having carried out attacks and the former claiming responsibility for a deadly 2016 church bombing.

The new designations also include Jund al-Khilafa, a Tunisian armed group that has pledged allegiance to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The conference was hosted jointly by the State Department, INTERPOL and the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law.

Washington is also urging reluctant partners such as Britain and France to take custody of their citizens who joined the Islamic State group and were captured in Iraq or Syria and bring them up for prosecution.

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