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."


Rebels evacuate Syria's Eastern Ghouta

Sarkozy says life ‘living hell’ since corruption allegations

Turkey’s largest media group to be sold to Erdogan ally

Hezbollah leader says debt threatens Lebanon disaster

Exiled Syrian doctors treat refugees in Turkey

In world first, flight to Israel crosses Saudi airspace

Saudi, US must pursue 'urgent efforts' for Yemen peace: Mattis

US, Jordan launch new counterterrorism training centre

Two Hamas security force members killed in raid on bomb suspect

Turkey gives watchdog power to block internet broadcasts

EU leaders to condemn Turkey’s ‘illegal’ actions in Mediterranean

Ahed Tamimi reaches plea deal for eight months in jail

UN launching final push to salvage Libya political agreement

Conditions for displaced from Syria's Ghouta 'tragic': UN

Sisi urges Egyptians to vote, denies excluding rivals

Rights Watch says Libya not ready for elections

Saudis revamp school curriculum to combat Muslim Brotherhood

American mother trapped in Syria’s Ghouta calls out Trump

Syria workers say French firm abandoned them to jihadists

Grim Nowruz for Kurds fleeing Afrin

Sarkozy back in custody for second day of questioning

'Saudization' taking its toll on salesmen

Syrian rebels reach evacuation deal in Eastern Ghouta town

Israel confirms it hit suspected Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007

UN says Turkey security measures 'curtail human rights'

Netanyahu says African migrants threaten Jewish majority

US Senate votes on involvement in Yemen war as Saudi prince visits

What a ‘limited strike’ against Syria’s Assad might mean

Erdogan tells US to stop ‘deceiving’, start helping on Syria

IS controls Damascus district in surprise attack

French ex-president held over Libya financing allegations

NGO says Israeli army violating Palestinian minors’ rights

Human rights chief slams Security Council for inaction on Syria

US warns Turkey over civilians caught in Syria assault

Saudi crown prince keen to cement ties with US

Abbas calls US ambassador to Israel 'son of a dog'

Erdogan vows to expand Syria op to other Kurdish-held areas

Kurdish envoy accuses foreign powers of ignoring Turkish war crimes

Morocco authorities vow to close Jerada's abandoned mines

Israeli soldier sees manslaughter sentence slashed

Turkey insists no plans to remain in Afrin

Cairo voters show unwavering support for native son Sisi

Forum in Jordan explores new teaching techniques

Gaza Strip woes receive renewed attention but no fix is expected

Kurds, Syrian opposition condemn Afrin looting