U.N. Assessment of Islamic Extremist Terror Threats – Europe and Africa
By Sam Jacobsen
A United Nations Security Council communication released in July warned that although the incidence rate of Islamic-motivated terrorism has declined in the last months, the terror threat is still high. The Security Council noted that while ISIL no longer has any geographic holdings, its presence in Iraq and surrounding states combined with its ideology and ability to undermine fragile West African political structures still pose threats. Furthermore, the progress made by Al-Qaida and its allies, although financially less formidable than ISIL, creates similar cause for concern.
The period of 2015-2017 in Europe saw seven separate terrorists incidents that involved more than ten civilian deaths as a result of Islamic extremism. By contrast, the period of 2017-2019 has yet to register an attack of that size. The UN Security Council specifically highlights the availability of online material to train potential perpetrators of terror attacks as well as the home-grown radicalisation of foreign and resident nationals in the prison systems. Programs undertaken by EU member states to deradicalize their constituents have proved ineffective according the the Security Council’s July communication. Efforts to fully monitor individuals that left to fight for ISIL were not adequate resulting in an estimated 30-40% rate at which escapees have returned to various European states.
Numerous Al-Qaida and ISIL affiliates dot currently populate the Sahel and surrounding geographic regions. The UN states that there is a great risk for many cities across the Sahel region becoming logistical centers or strongholds for terrorist groups. Ethnic conflicts have exacerbated the problem of radicalization and recruitment. Somalia has seen similar problems with well-funded terrorist groups linked to Al-Qaida carrying out daily attacks, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo is also under threat by ISIL affiliates, though much of the situation is rapidly evolving.
At a basic level, the UN’s assessment of all Al-Qaida and ISIL affiliated terror groups indicate that the ideals backing insurgency are nearly impossible to avoid. As ISIL lost its geographic holdings in the Levant, terror networks around the globe have remained intact. Furthermore, terror groups continue to rise and even merge, combining resources and logistical capabilities. West and Central Africa have seen an unprecedented rise in separate terrorist organization linked to ISIL or Al-Qaida.
Despite a relative calm period in terrorist activity in western nations, the UN report is rightfully cautious. Given the complex nature of radical ideology and extremist leaders’ commitment to perpetuating terror attacks, this seemingly calmer period in Islamic extremism may not last. Efforts to monitor funding and logistical proceedings of terrorist groups are well underway in conjunction with Interpol, but base religious and ideological differences will continue to promote extremist terrorism. The UN communication recommends that member states train further on chemical weapons, dark web activities, trafficking, and other facets of counter-terrorism.
United Nations Security Council, Letter dated 15 July 2019 from the Chair of the Security Council Committee pursuant to resolutions 1267 (1999), 1989 (2011) and 2253 (2015) concerning Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Da’esh), Al-Qaida and associated individuals, groups, undertakings and entities addressed to the President of the Security Council. Available from https://undocs.org/S/2019/570.