First Published: 2017-04-21

Spate of attacks shows weakening of Islamic State
Facing extreme pressure in Iraq, Syria as well as improved efforts by intelligence services, IS group has fallen back on claiming assaults carried out by 'losers.'
Middle East Online

Two suspected IS members await interrogation by Iraqi counter-terrorism forces on front line in west Mosul.

PARIS - The steady drip of jihadist attacks in Europe, including the slaying of a policeman on Paris's world-famous Champs Elysees Thursday, might give the impression the Islamic State group is thriving -- but experts say that's wrong.

Under the pressure of the international coalition in Iraq and Syria as well as improved efforts by intelligence services, IS has seen its ability to mount complex, group attacks weaken.

So, it has fallen back on encouraging -- or simply claiming -- assaults executed by people experts term "losers."

While a large-scale strike remains a possibility, "the deadly tenacity of Daesh (IS) against France poorly masks a continuing degradation of its ability to strike our nation," Jean-Pierre Filiu, a researcher at Paris's Sciences Po university, wrote on his blog Friday.

IS jihadists have claimed deadly attacks in London, Berlin, Nice and now the bloodshed on the Champs Elysees. But none had the logistical complexity of the 2015 assault on Paris that killed 130 people and the 2016 strike on Brussels airport and underground train system.

"It seems Daesh has reorganised its European networks after major blows struck against it in France," Filiu added.

Filiu pointed to security services hitting "critical mass" after collecting data essential to thwarting plots.

At the same time, coalition air strikes in IS territory in Iraq and Syria have killed or forced into hiding many organisers of the attacks.

Turkey's shutting down the migrant route to Europe has also made it much harder for IS followers to move within striking distance of targets like Paris and London.

- 'A criminal organisation' -

On Thursday, 39-year-old Frenchman Karim Cheurfi pulled out an automatic weapon and opened fire on a police van just a few hundred metres from the iconic Arc de Triomphe.

The Islamic State jihadist group claimed the perpetrator as one of its "fighters" and a note praising IS was found near his body.

It was the first deadly jihadist attack in France since July.

The attack that killed five people outside the Houses of Parliament in London last month, and others carried out by individuals, "are above all indications of IS's disintegration," radicalisation expert Farhad Khosrokhavar wrote last month.

These events serve to terrorise the public, "but they are symbolic last stands, which mark the end of a jihadist state that followers... want to be endless but which is coming to an end," he said.

Into the void left by the smashing of organised rings, have stepped "rather unstable, even marginal, individuals who police have trouble linking to Daesh," Olivier Roy, a specialist in political Islam, wrote last month.

The jihadists, though, are only too happy to take credit for these crimes in order to appear a group with global reach.

"The only ones left are losers," he wrote.

Yet those attackers come with another dimension of dangers because they often act alone, making them harder to detect. They also do not need anything more than a vehicle or a knife to kill.

It is too early to say if the Champs Elysees attack will have an impact on the outcome of the French election -- Sunday is the poll's first round -- but far-right leader Marine Le Pen, her centrist rival Emmanuel Macron, and scandal-hit conservative Francois Fillon cancelled campaign events Friday.

Filiu, the Sciences Po researcher, urged the French public to resist "jihadist blackmail", saying "it's not an army, but a criminal organisation that carries out acts of terror."

 

US warns Iran over imprisoned Americans

Saudi King sets up new state security agency

Kuwait protests to Lebanon over Hezbollah training

30 extremists in Sinai operations

Foreign food chains hoping for taste of Iran market

Three Palestinians shot dead in Jerusalem

Nearly 360 injured in Turkey by magnitude 6.7 quake

UN says Saudi to blame for deadly Yemen strike on civilians

Police fire tear gas to disperse Morocco protest

Germany reviews arms sales to Turkey

Hezbollah launches Syria border operation

China calls for Gulf crisis talks

Israel bars men under 50 from Jerusalem Old City prayers

Intensifying Jihadist-rebel clashes in Syria's Idlib

Rebel ambush kills 28 regime fighters near Damascus

Turkey slams 'dangerous' Cyprus energy plans

Saudi prince 'arrested over leaked abuse videos'

Israel boosts 'security measures' as Al-Aqsa tensions simmer

Kuwait expels Iranian diplomats over 'terror' cell

Germany vows to overhaul Turkey ties as row escalates

Home cooked meals a relief for fighters in Syria's Raqa

US maintains designation of Iran as top 'state sponsor'

US halting support for Syria rebels

30 civilians dead in anti-IS strikes in Syria

Palestinian civilians urge ICC to speed up probe

Turkey PM opts for stability in light cabinet reshuffle

UN aid flight carrying journalists barred from Yemen

Former IS slaves fight for revenge in Raqa

US, Iran trade tit-for-tat sanctions

20 Yemeni civilians killed in air strike

14 killed in opposition infighting in Syria's Idlib

Morocco sentences 25 to prison over W. Sahara killings

Egypt police kill top militants

Heavy rainfall hits Istanbul causing transport chaos

Palestinians protest Israeli security measures at Al-Aqsa compound

Saudi police question woman who wore miniskirt

Rebels, US-backed Kurds clash in northern Syria

Netanyahu says Hungary is 'standing up for' Israel

Lebanon army to launch operation near Syria border

Morocco delays currency reform amid speculation

Iran parliament vows to fight US 'adventurism'

4 killed in suicide car bomb at Kurdish checkpoint in Syria

Israel opposes Syria truce deal over Iran presence

Egypt to end visas on arrival for Qatari citizens

Erdogan to visit Qatar, Saudi Arabia