Islamic State still a threat and could once again seize power in parts of the Middle East like Syria, experts say | World News

Although it no longer controls large swaths of Iraq and Syria, Islamic State remains a threat and will try to release 10,000 of its fighters from Syrian prisons in 2023, experts say.

The notorious terror group has shrunk considerably since its heyday in 2014 but remains a threat in a volatile part of the Middle East, as well as Afghanistan and parts of Africa.

Moreover, there are concerns that a possible Turkish ground operation in Syria could create the perfect conditions for IS to seize power once again.

“Blink and you’ll miss it and suddenly ISIS is back,” says Dr. Shiraz Maher, a Middle East expert.

In a year where other stories have dominated the headlines, here’s what Sky News sees. I.S is doing, and may large parts of the territory once again come under its banner.

Since then The last bastion in Syria fell to Western-backed forcesAccording to terrorism expert Matthew Heinman, IS is operating at a “very low” level.

He said: “But the level of threat, the level of operational activity, has been reasonably constant over this kind of period.

“The group has maintained a steady pace of insurgent violence in various key theaters.”

Mr Heinman, who works for the Janes Intelligence Agency, said the group and its affiliates were focused on taking advantage of regional instability and still had plans to seize territory.

FILE - In this Tuesday, July 22, 2014 file photo, a motorist walks past an Islamic State group flag in central Rawah, 175 miles (281 km) northwest of Baghdad, Iraq.  Iraqi forces have recaptured the last IS-held town in the country, Iraq's Defense Ministry said on Friday, November 17, 2017, three years after the militant group overran nearly a third of Iraqi territory. After more than  (AP Photo, File)
An Islamic State flag was seen flying in Rawah, central Iraq. Photo: AP

Want to occupy parts of Africa.

IS has several branches, or provinces, throughout the Middle East and Africa. Each has its own regional leader who then pledges allegiance to the overall IS leader.

Abu al-Hussein al-Husseini al-Quraishi is the current leader of IS after him. His predecessor blew himself up in October when Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters moved in..

At its height, IS’s so-called caliphate controlled about a third of Syria and 40 percent of Iraq – an area larger than Iceland.

In recent years, Mr. Heinmann says, the group has focused much of its attention on West Africa, where it has met with a multinational task force to prevent it from getting a proper foothold.

The group’s regional affiliate in Afghanistan – known as the Islamic State in Khorasan province – has stepped up its attacks since the Taliban returned to power.

Earlier this month, China advised its citizens to leave the country after a coordinated attack by Islamic State militants on a Chinese-owned hotel in the heart of Kabul.

Read more: Islamic State in Africa – How the terrorist group’s influence is spreading across the continent.

Smoke rises from the last besieged neighborhood of Baghouz village in Syria's Deir Ezzor province, March 18, 2019.  REUTERS/Stringer
Smoke rises from the Islamic State’s last besieged stronghold in Baghouz in March 2019

Efforts to free thousands of imprisoned militants

But the threat of IS activities in Iraq and Syria remains despite its reduced presence.

70,000 people, including women and children, and about 10,000 IS militants are being held by Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria with suspected links to the group.

IS has made it clear that it intends to release its supporters. This in January Used vehicles and explosives to crash into the walls of the Govaran prison. In an attempt to free 3000 prisoners at Hasakiya.

Dr Shiraz Maher, a senior lecturer at King’s College London, says the threat of IS releasing thousands of captured fighters is “the single biggest security threat to the West”.

He told Sky News: “The Syrian Democratic Forces have repeatedly said that this is a ticking time bomb that they are sitting on (that) they are not capable of dealing with alone.”

Read more:
After beheading the hostages, IS ‘Battle’ was sentenced to eight life terms.
The second Islamic State leader of the year was killed in combat.

Many of those detained by SDF forces are foreign fighters, but many nations are reluctant to deal with them.

Dr. Maher warned that if Turkey threatened a ground attack targeting Kurdish forces, the delicate situation could be jeopardized.

Such a development could force Kurdish authorities to divert resources currently guarding their network of detention centers to the frontline, creating a “massive” opportunity for IS to free its supporters. But the ability” will arise.

“We need to think creatively and have some courage to tackle this problem and nip it in the bud now,” Dr Maher said.

“If ISIS returns to Syria and Iraq, people will die on the streets of Berlin, London and Madrid.”

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