The United Nations warned on Saturday that the recent break in the number of international jihadist attacks may end soon. A new wave of attacks may occur before the end of this year, according to UN researchers.
The warning is in a report prepared by UN Security Council observers. This is based on information provided by the intelligence services of different Member States.
After attacks in Germany, France and Belgium, among others, in which hundreds of people died in 2015 and 2016, the frequency of attacks in Europe decreased. But the threat "remains high," the researchers write.
"As soon as it has the time and space to invest in external operational capacity, IS will direct and facilitate international attacks, in addition to IS-inspired attacks that are still taking place in many places around the world. It follows that the current slowdown in this kind of attacks may not last long, perhaps not until the end of 2019, "is one of their conclusions from the report.
Many foreign IS fighters still alive
The UN monitors are among other things concerned about the large number of foreign fighters who fought for IS in Syria and Iraq. Up to 30,000 of them would still be alive.
"Their future plans will continue to lead to international concerns in the near future," write the UN experts. "Some may switch to Al Qaeda or other terrorist groups that may arise. Some will become leaders or recruiters."
Prison camps in the two countries still contain thousands of alleged IS sympathizers. The often miserable conditions in prisons and internment camps and difficulties in bringing suspects to trial can cause them to (further) radicalize, the researchers said.
Soon the first people who came from IS territory and were detained served their sentences and are released. That also entails risks.
European countries estimate that a total of around 6,000 Europeans have left for Syria and Iraq to fight alongside jihadist groups. About two thousand of them are said to have returned to Europe.
IS returns to the past as an underground terror network
Although the 'caliphate' of IS has been dismantled and the terrorist group no longer controls any significant territory, many of the factors that make the rise of IS possible are still present in the parts of Iraq and Syria that belonged to the caliphate.
With the loss of its territory, under the leadership of Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, IS is once again making a 'reverse evolution', from state to underground terror network. The UN researchers believe that the group still has a war treasury of 45-270 million euros.
IS propaganda channels are once again active online to polish up the image as a precursor in the jihad by setting up a 'virtual caliphate'.
Not only groups from Syria and Iraq are dangerous. The researchers also point to a sharp increase in jihadist violence in West Africa. In Burkina Faso and Mali, among others, extremist militias have sworn allegiance to IS. The Al Baghdadi group also claimed two attacks in Mozambique and Congo early last month.
See also: Islamic State prepares comeback as a terror network