News / Middle East

    Islamic State Better Resourced Than Al-Qaida for Long Terror Campaign

    FILE - A militant Islamist fighter uses a mobile to film his fellow fighters taking part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province.
    FILE - A militant Islamist fighter uses a mobile to film his fellow fighters taking part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province.

    European intelligence officials say they don’t know exactly how many assassins and bombers the Islamic State terror group has trained to conduct deadly attacks in Europe like Tuesday’s in Brussels. Officials fear, however, they are facing hundreds of potential assailants, either trained in camps in Syria or recruited through kinship and crime networks in Europe by returning IS volunteers.

    Estimates of IS jihadists ready to carry out out attacks range from as low as 200 to up to 400. “We just don’t have any real precision on how many dedicated and trained operatives they have on the continent,” a senior French intelligence official told VOA. “The estimates in the end are guesses,” the official admitted.

    Last year, a smuggler on the Syrian-Turkish border claimed to U.S. news-site Buzzfeed that the terror group "had sent some 4,000 fighters to Europe.” Belgian and French Intelligence officials say they doubt the figure is that high of fighters plotting attacks in Europe; but, they are acutely aware that more than 5,000 Europeans have over the last few years joined the terror group and that as they trickle back, the danger of terrorism increases exponentially.

    The officials say IS is better placed to wage a sustainable and deadlier terror campaign than al-Qaida was able to manage after the attacks on New York and Washington on September 11, 2001.

    And analysts agree with that assessment.

    “It has many more resources, capacities and experiences compared with those of al-Qaida,” according to Omar Ashour, a senior lecturer in security studies at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at Britain’s University of Exeter.

    “These are not only demonstrated by ISIS's control of territory stretching from parts of Aleppo in Syria to parts of Salah al-Din province in Iraq, in which about 10 million people live, but also by the capacity of ISIS to strike in areas where they do not have that control,” he said, using another acronym for Islamic State.

    Al-Qaida has had little success with complex operations against targets in the West since 9/11. The group's highly active Arabian Peninsula branch has made several efforts to bomb Western airlines but seen them all foiled or botched. In contrast, since August 2014, IS and its affiliates have conducted at least 25 plots against Westerners, either in nearby North Africa or on European soil. Before then, it was behind just three attacks on Western targets.

    The rapid increase in the tempo and complexity of IS attacks is alarming and fulfilling exactly what the group intends them for, says Shashank Joshi, a senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute. “The purpose of any of these attacks is get the headline, show the capability of the network and provoke fear among European public,” he says.

    FILE - People mourn outside "Le Carillon" restaurant a week after a series of deadly attacks in Paris, Nov. 22, 2015.
    FILE - People mourn outside "Le Carillon" restaurant a week after a series of deadly attacks in Paris, Nov. 22, 2015.

    Rising fear

    And that fear is rising. So is the political and public clamor for a rapid fix to the lapses in the continent’s security services.

    As the IS terror campaign has morphed abruptly from so-called lone-wolf attacks and simpler hit-and-run shooting sprees - such as the Brussels museum attack in May 2014, in which a single gunman killed four people - into coordinated assaults targeting multiple locations simultaneously involving several assailants, the opportunities for leaks increase as do the chances for electronic or human intelligence to pick up outlines of plots.

    Even so, the Belgian and French security services were unable to prevent last November’s attacks in Paris or Tuesday’s deadly terrorism. It took the Belgians 125 days to capture Salah Abdeslam, who oversaw the logistics for the Paris attacks, and was wounded and apprehended after a brief shoot-out, even though he had remained holed up in a Brussels suburb.

    Much of this week’s criticism of the Belgian security services has focused on perceived lapses in intelligence-sharing.

    Ibrahim and Khalid El Bakraoui, the two suicide bombers at Brussels’ Zaventem airport, were on the terrorism watch list in the United States. Ibrahim El Bakraoui was able to skip parole after serving part of a nine-year sentence for armed robbery, leave for Syria and be deported from Turkey as a “foreign terrorist fighter” without Belgian authorities flagging him as an Islamic militant.

    “If you put all things in a row, you can ask yourself major questions,” Belgian’s interior minister, Jan Jambon, said this week.

    Belgian police officers get into a vehicle outside a court building where Salah Abdeslam, the top suspect in last year's deadly Paris attacks, was expected to appear before a judge in Brussels, Belgium, March 24, 2016.
    Belgian police officers get into a vehicle outside a court building where Salah Abdeslam, the top suspect in last year's deadly Paris attacks, was expected to appear before a judge in Brussels, Belgium, March 24, 2016.

    Intelligence sharing

    As in the wake of the Paris attacks, plotted on Belgian soil, Belgium's government has vowed to overhaul the security services and improve intelligence-sharing among the country’s federal and local law-enforcement agencies divided between Flemish and French speakers and with European neighbors.

    Meeting Thursday, European Union justice and interior ministers pledged, as they did before in November, to improve joint intelligence-gathering and push through measures to share airline passenger information.

    The challenges don’t only rest with failures in intelligence-sharing. Resources are crucial, too. All European security services are overwhelmed - short of the necessary skilled analysts needed to sift through and make sense of the huge amount of information provided by electronic data surveillance. They are also short of the intelligence manpower needed to investigate and monitor suspects.

    In November, former French intelligence counterterrorism chief Louis Caprioli told the Financial Times in an interview that 18 to 20 officers were required to monitor any one terror suspect for 24 hours a day. French authorities have watch lists of 20,000 people considered to have ties in varying degrees to radical Islam. “Materially, physically, you cannot keep watch on 20,000 people round the clock,” he said. Using Caprioli’s ratio, It would need 400,000 intelligence operatives to do so.

    Likewise, British intelligence has around 4,000 officers employed by the country’s domestic intelligence organization, MI5, as well as 6,000 employees at Britain’s electronic eavesdropping agency, GCHQ. Britain has more than 3,000 suspects on its watch list - for all to be under surveillance 24 hours a day would require up to 60,000 intelligence officers.

    Belgium currently employs about 700 people in its civil intelligence service with about 800 working in military intelligence. Those intelligence officers also have to help provide security for the government and EU institutions and assess and counter other threats including a highly active Russian intelligence operation focused on NATO, analysts say.

    Belgian authorities plan to hire an additional 1,000 police, prosecutors and security agents to focus on the IS threat. According to the country’s justice ministry, about 117 Belgians are estimated to have returned from fighting in Syria and to keep tabs on them them would require at least 2,340 intelligence officers, leaving no one to monitor hundreds of others on watch lists who have closely-knit kinship ties or other connections to radical Islamists.

    You May Like

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games, Despite Woes

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    IS Use of Social Media to Recruit, Radicalize Still a Top Threat to US

    Despite military gains against IS in Iraq and Syria, their internet propaganda still commands an audience; US officials see 'the most complex challenge that the federal government and industry face'

    ‘Time Is Now’ to Save Africa’s Animals From Poachers, Activist Says

    During Zimbabwe visit, African Wildlife Foundation President Kaddu Sebunya says poaching hurts Africa as slave trade once did

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: anonymous
    March 26, 2016 1:17 AM
    Belgium needs to vastly upgrade its manpower number with the necessary training, this much is obvious.The problem is not insurmountable, the Belgium people shall overcome, despite
    their grief.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora