Spanish political analyst, Diego Crescente, warned of the return of the so-called ‘returnees’ or ‘lone wolfs’ from Syria and Iraq to European countries.
Crescente warned of emergence of new terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria after Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi declared in December that ISIS has been totally defeated in Iraq, following three years of ISIS controlling about a third of Iraq’s territory.
On Friday the Spanish La Informacion newspaper published a long report by Crescente revealing the emergence of new terrorist groups from the remnants of ISIS.
Crescente claimed that the Iraqi authorities had warned about the emergence of a new white flag with an image of lion’s head. “The appearance of this new flag represents the beginning of a new stage of terrorism in the region,” said Crescente.
He alleged that some Iraqi observers believe that the flag belongs to a Kurdish militant group that has sought independence from both Baghdad and Erbil, while others believe that the flag belongs to ISIS which may seek a new beginning.
“In the Past, Al-Qaeda was the major threat to the Arab and Muslim world and Western Governments, before the formation of ISIS,” said Crescente, adding, “Today, both Qaeda and ISIS are demolishing.”
Qaeda and ISIS share common interests more than differences of view they have. “Both seek a global caliphate, fighting against western countries and accusing Muslim countries of being infidels,” Crescente stressed.
Crescente believes that the core dispute between the two militant groups appears at the backdrop of the Syrian crisis in 2011, adding, “When Abu Bakr Baghdadi decided to expand his battles from Iraq to include Syria, Qaeda’s leader Ayman al-Zawahri welcomed the decision. The dispute between Baghdadi and Zawahri erupted over the Nusra Front, as Baghdadi wanted it to be under his leadership, while Zawahri wanted to leave it under a separate leadership of Syrians only.”
The report expected that Qaeda and ISIS may seek to recruit new fighters in case a new phase begins in the region. “Zawahri has sought to recruit ISIS fighters, while ISIS leaders have sought to recruit Nusrah Front’s militants,” Crescente revealed.
5,600 people returned to their home nations
In December, the Soufan Group, which provides strategic security intelligence services to governments and multinational organizations, published a report stating that more than 40,000 people from more than 110 countries around the world traveled to Syria and Iraq after the IS caliphate was announced in 2014.
Furthermore, the 41-page report pointed out that only about 5,600 people returned to their home nations.
The report also confirmed that about 400 citizens have returned recently from Syria and Iraq to Britain, according to British Minister of State for International Development Rory Stewart.
From France, about 1,700 people went to Iraq and Syria to join ISIS since 2013. Of those, 400 to 450 have been killed and 250 returned to France, officials said.
The report also notes that a group of returnees are the most difficult for countries to deal with, namely the segment of women and children, especially as some children were born in the caliphate. Therefore, it is important to address this issue urgently and implement the development of mechanisms for mental safety and social support, as some have been trained to carry arms and kill.
Aditionally, TCS stated, “From 2014 to 2016, ISIS have recruited and trained more than 2,000 boys between the ages of 9 and 15 as cubs of the caliphate.”
TCS points out that most ISIS members still fight and adhere to their leaders, and some of them will move to other lands to continue fighting and to join other violent groups.
The United States-led international coalition fighting ISIS announced in December that less than 1,000 ISIS militants “remain in Iraq and Syria”, according to Reuters.
During the Global Youth Conference in November which took place in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt’s President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi warned that ISIS militants ‘may seek shelter in Egypt and Libya,” following defeats in Iraq and Syria.