On 26 October, American forces raided a compound in Syria and cornered Islamic State (IS/Isis) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who detonated his suicide vest when cornered. His death was reported as a great triumph against the terrorist group, which has been directly or indirectly linked with countless acts of terrorism – including many in Europe and the UK.
Baghdadi’s sister has just been arrested (reported in the early hours of 5 November) by Turkish forces, and officials say they believe she can provide useful information about IS networks and contacts.
Does this mean IS has been defeated once and for all?
Unfortunately not, according to government officials and a number of journalists.
Indeed, on 1st November Islamic State killed 54 people near the Malian border with Niger.
Last month saw 2 largely unreported terrorist attacks in Europe. The first in Paris on October 3rd when a radicalised Islamist stabbed four people to death and injured two others, at the central police headquarters in Paris. He was an administrative worker and had been recently converting to Salafist Islam. The perpetrator was shot instantly dead by other officers.
Then on 9th October in Germany, 2 people were killed and 2 injured when a terrorist with far-right motives attempted to enter a synagogue and ended up attacking a kebab shop. The attack was streamed by the attacker for 35 minutes on social media whilst he ranted against Jews and non-white people. He was arrested.
In Indonesia on 10th October, two Islamic State members, a man and a woman, attacked and injured 4 people.
IS in Syria
IS has already named a new leader as Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurashi – this was reported by the BBC on 31 October – and the group still has thousands of followers in Syria as well as affiliates in other countries. Even though Baghdadi’s compound was completely destroyed after the US raid, this is unlikely to have gotten rid of the rest of the organisation.
When reporting on a second air strike targeting Baghdadi’s assistant/second-in-command, The Times wrote that, “Nonetheless, the group has proven resilient in the past and losing its ideological figurehead will likely not prove fatal because of the organisation’s flexible, decentralised leadership structure.”
The Independent interviewed Brett Bruen, former chef of global engagement at the White House. He believes that despite this massive defeat and loss of territory, “The battle will now largely move online where the terror group will try to replenish their funds and recruits, continue to inspire lone wolf attacks, and create new threats.”
While IS’s survival will largely depend on funding and online presence, we can’t forget about it just yet. We have seen many acts of terrorism carried out by people who were not in direct contact with a terrorist cell, but had been reading IS materials online. While social media channels have pledged to do their best to remove this type of content, it is proving difficult for them to remove every problematic post, picture or video.
ForeignPolicy.com also noted that since the United States’ withdrawal of troops in Syria, IS is “emboldened” and remains a threat: “The Islamic State still poses a threat in Syria, particularly since hundreds of its fighters and their family members escaped detention during a Turkish-backed incursion this month.”
Be Prepared, Not Scared
This can all sound quite terrifying, but please remember that terror is the goal of these terrorist organisations and we don’t have to give them that. Statistically, we’re all still far more likely to be affected indirectly (transport delays, lost possessions, cancelled flights, etc.) than directly if there is an act of terrorism.
Police and security are on high alert, especially with the approaching holiday season, and have a good record of intercepting and preventing most attacks.
We don’t believe in staying home, but we do believe in having all the information we can get our hands on, as well as financial protection* in case there is an act of terrorism.
We know we keep repeating these safety tips, but they are so important, especially during the busy Christmas period:
- Check news and safety updates for your route and destination.
- Check this before you book and before you travel, as things can change.
- Run, Hide, Tell – Get as far away from the scene as possible (if it is safe to do so); take cover behind solid walls or in a locked room; report to security/police as soon as you can (and if it is safe to do so). Make sure your friends and family know this too.
- If there is an incident, don’t stop to take photos or videos! Get as far away as you can, as fast as you can.
- Arrange a meeting place with friends and family prior to each trip/outing
- Find walking routes that are protected from vehicle traffic by bollards, concrete benches, etc.
- Choose markets and attractions with prominent, well-organised security and accessible exits.
- Report any suspicious items or activity immediately, wherever you are.
Being aware and alert doesn’t mean taking the fun out of a holiday – it just adds to your peace of mind. And that’s one of the best ways to fight terror.
*Financial protection with Safe Journey provides comprehensive terrorism travel insurance, including the option to cancel if there’s an act of terrorism within 40 miles of your destination, up to 6 weeks before your departure date. Please read our Policy Wording for full terms, conditions and exclusions.
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