isis sri lanka (ISIS photo)

ISIS Highlights State Dept. Report’s Description of Their ‘Global Network’ and Evolution

The Islamic State led the news briefs section in their latest weekly newsletter by noting how the State Department warned a global network of ISIS loyalists that can carry out attacks anywhere was the post-caliphate evolution of the terror group.

The annual Country Reports on Terrorism released last week includes updates on the activities of designated foreign terrorist organizations. ISIS strength was estimated at between 11,000 and 18,000 in just Iraq and Syria, including thousands of foreign fighters. The report included separate assessments for ISIS branches in Bangladesh, the Sahel, Afghanistan/Pakistan, Libya, the Philippines, the Sinai, and West Africa.

The report noted the January 2019 suicide bombing of a restaurant in Manbij, Syria, that killed 19 people, including four Americans and the Easter 2019 attacks in which over 250 people were killed in Sri Lanka in coordinated suicide bombings at multiple churches and hotels. In November 2019, ISIS claimed responsibility for a stabbing attack near the London Bridge in which two people were killed and three injured.

State Department Coordinator for Counterterrorism Nathan Sales said in a Wednesday press conference unveiling the latest report that the United States is now “taking the fight to ISIS and al-Qaeda affiliates around the world” with a particular focus on Africa.

Asked whether the ISIS threat had increased or decreased from the previous year, Sales replied that it has “evolved.”

“We’re seeing a continued evolution in ISIS from an entity that purported to control territory to one that is instead a network, a global network that reaches every inhabited continent,” he said. “And this network not only plans its attacks on its own, it also continues to inspire individuals to commit attacks of their own devising. And as an example of that, I would refer you to the Easter Sunday attacks in Sri Lanka last year, a gruesome and vivid example of what ISIS-inspired terrorists are capable of doing.”

In their weekly al-Naba newsletter, ISIS reported on Sales’ comments about the terror group’s “global network” and incitement of lone jihadists as the first report on their page of news briefs.

Al-Naba, which this past week ran 12 pages, generally publishes news of ISIS operations but also runs news on current events of interest to jihadists, including California wildfires and the coronavirus pandemic. ISIS included a full-page infographic on coronavirus prevention in a March issue of the newsletter, stating that “the healthy should not enter the land of the epidemic and the afflicted should not exit from it” and followers should “cover the mouth when yawning and sneezing.”

Sales told reporters that “as ISIS evolves into a global network that lacks a physical so-called caliphate, it’s important for the United States and our partners to evolve as well in using a different set of tools to get at this challenge.”

“Sometimes military force is the appropriate tool – we saw that in Syria and Iraq – but oftentimes in this new stage of the fight we will be prioritizing law enforcement to prosecute ISIS-affiliated terrorists for the crimes they’ve committed, counterterrorism finance to cut off the flow of money to ISIS and its affiliates around the world, countermessaging so that we can delegitimize the radical ideology that ISIS uses to inspire the next generation of recruits, and border security measures to ensure that ISIS fighters are not able to enter the United States or cross international borders where they could wreak havoc,” he said.

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Bridget Johnson is the Managing Editor for Homeland Security Today. A veteran journalist whose news articles and analyses have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe, Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor and a foreign policy writer at The Hill. Previously she was an editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and syndicated nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. Bridget is a senior fellow specializing in terrorism analysis at the Haym Salomon Center. She is a Senior Risk Analyst for Gate 15, a private investigator and a security consultant. She is an NPR on-air contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, New York Observer, National Review Online, Politico, New York Daily News, The Jerusalem Post, The Hill, Washington Times, RealClearWorld and more, and has myriad television and radio credits including Al-Jazeera, BBC and SiriusXM.

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