ISIS morphs into borderless terror group in South Asia

Since coming to power in Afghanistan eight months ago, the Taliban have touted their success in repressing the Islamic State (ISIS) extremist group, but the terrorist organisation’s footprint has expanded into neighbouring Pakistan, stepping up attacks there.

Analysts say ISIS has morphed into a borderless terrorist group, one of the deadliest in a region that has spawned many violent, radical organisations.

In northwest Pakistan, the impact is brutally clear. The remains of an ISIS suicide bomber are still visible on the once ornate walls of a mosque, weeks after he blew himself up, killing more than 60 worshippers as they prayed. ISIS identified the bomber as an Afghan from Kabul.

The March 4 bombing at the Kusha Kisaldar Shia mosque in the old city of Peshawar stunned Pakistanis, deepening their fear of the resurgence of terror attacks in their country, after a steady decline in the past decade.

The rise in attacks began last year and is accelerating, said Amir Rana, executive director of the Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies, an independent think tank that monitors militant activity in Pakistan.

By late March this year, Pakistan had seen 52 attacks by militants, compared to 35 in the same period last year, according to the institute’s data. The attacks have also become deadlier. So far this year in Pakistan, 155 people have been killed in such strikes, compared to 68 last year.

The worst have been claimed by a ruthless Islamic State (ISIS) affiliate, known Islamic State in Khorasan Province or ISIS-K.

Meanwhile, ISIS attacks appear to have declined in Afghanistan.

ISIS-K first emerged in 2014 in eastern Afghanistan. By 2019, it held significant territory in Nangarhar province and had pushed into neighbouring Kunar province. The US military waged a massive air campaign against it, including targeting a suspected ISIS hideout with America’s largest conventional bomb, known as the “mother of all bombs.”

But ISIS survived and it presented the greatest security challenge to the Taliban when they seized power in Afghanistan last August.

ISIS-K is a longtime enemy of the Taliban. The Taliban espouse a harsh interpretation of Islamic law and often used suicide attacks in their nearly 20-year insurgency against the United States and its Afghan allies. But they often blend tribal traditions with religious edicts and have reached out to Shia. ISIS, meanwhile, rejects any group that does not accept its totalitarian, deeply anti-Shia ideology and is notorious for atrocities meant to spread fear. ISIS, unlike the Taliban, see their battle as one to establish a unified Muslim world under a caliphate.

(Arab Weekly)



by Daily News Sri Lanka

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