Islamic State Ramps up Attacks, But Not Capturing New Ground
The U.S. military says it’s struck key bomb-making factories as Iraqi troops close in on Ramadi, but a new independent study shows violence is surging.
Senior U.S. military officials have said the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq is at a stalemate. But new numbers say otherwise: Attacks carried out by the group from Syria through Nigeria have jumped by 42 percent over the past three months, according to a report released Thursday.
Islamic State fighters launched 1,086 attacks between July and September, according to the study by IHS Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre. That is a 42 percent increase from violence between April and June.
However, the attacks haven’t done much to win new territory for the extremists. The violence mostly focused on areas where the Islamic State already had a foothold, and were used to consolidate local control and wipe out continued resistance.
The Islamic State currently controls the Sunni-dominated Iraqi cities of Mosul, Fallujah, and most of Ramadi, but Matthew Henman, head of the IHS center, said “there was relatively little in the way of nominal territorial expansion by the Islamic State in the past three months.”
The report identified Islamic State attacks in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, the North Caucasus and Algeria, along with the group’s home base in Iraq and Syria.
It also found that the Islamic State affiliate in Nigeria, known as Wilayat Gharb Afriqiyya (also known as Boko Haram) managed to record a higher death toll than the extremists’ attacks in Syria.
“This underlines the nature of the group’s insurgency in Nigeria and several bordering countries” that have targeted civilians with massive attacks, Henman said.
On Wednesday, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition in Baghdad said attacks launched by the Islamic State in Iraq actually fell dramatically over the past three months. Col. Steve Warren said the extremists’ use of suicide vests and car bombs dropped 49 percent, and handmade bombs placed alongside roads and elsewhere fell 32 percent from the April-June time period.
Warren said the drop, in part, was due to the U.S.-led coalition’s airstrikes against the Islamic State, destroying what he described as 47 bomb-making “factories” over the past several weeks. “We’re significantly disrupting the enemy’s ability to put its preferred weapon of choice, the IED, onto the battlefield,” he said, using an acronym for improvised explosive device, or homemade bomb.
Targeting such factories is a way “to pressure the funding and functioning of the ISIL war machines, so, getting at their industrial base,” Warren added.
Iraqi forces have started to push into Ramadi in recent days, surging from several directions to squeeze the estimated 600 to 1,000 Islamic State fighters dug into the city. Iraqi special forces, along with Sunni and Shiite militias, have also retaken much of the oil refinery at Baiji in recent days, trying to wrap up a fight that has see-sawed for months.
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