The extremist group Islamic state of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has its roots in the terror outfit Al Qaeda in Iraq, which was founded by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in 2004. He was killed in 2006. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was appointed as the head of what had by then come to be known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The group gained significance in 2013 when they started taking control of towns and villages in Iraq and Syria. In 2014, they seized Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq and announced in a mosque an Islamic ‘caliphate’. Since 2015, U.S has formed a coalition consisting of several countries including Turkey and has launched more than 19000 airstrikes on the organisation. It has now been weakened, and following the crackdown by the Iraqi forces, now controls less than 40% of Mosul and the rebel forces are also expected to capture Raqqa very soon.
The adventures of the group were not restricted to west Asia alone. Since 2015, they have selectively targeted Europe with severe attacks in Paris, Nice and Brussels. The group undoubtedly has caused mayhem in the region but off late it has been dealt huge blows which has resulted in the group claiming false responsibilities for attacks by individuals not associated with the ISIS. In an interview with TIME, Charlie Winter, an analyst at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence in London, said, “It’s no longer able to sell itself as the same organization it was selling itself as in 2014-2015, and that’s because its insurgency is dwindling in Iraq and Syria. And it’s spending a lot more time focusing on warfare.” He adds, “It needs to find some way to derive momentum. It needs to prove that it is credible, relevant, important, legitimate, and able to be a potent menace to the rest of the world.”
Last month, Salman Abedi, a British citizen of Libyan descent was responsible for the suicide bomb in Manchester Arena which killed 22 people. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attacks. The police has found no proof which seems to suggest this. Interestingly, Abedi’s father’s Facebook page showed that he supported the Shura Council, a bitter enemy of ISIS in Libya. His sister claims, “I think he saw children – Muslim children – dying everywhere, and wanted revenge. He saw the explosives America drops on children in Syria, and he wanted revenge.” He had no clear affiliations to ISIS and the group perhaps claimed responsibility to affirm its position in Europe.
ISIS also claimed responsibility for an attack on a casino in the Philippines on June 2. Police investigation showed that it was nothing more than a ‘robbery gone wrong‘. A masked gunman attacked a casino in Manila, stole £1.7million ($2.3million) worth of the casino’s property and eventually killed himself. Police has repeatedly claimed that it was just a robbery, whereas the ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack and named the assailant Abul Khayr al-Arkhabili and described him as a ‘martyr’.
In a bid to explain their mindset, Gareth Stansfield, professor of Middle East politics at Exeter University, said, “It’s the classic thing of being dispossessed, of having no roots. They see the perceived immorality of the west around them and these seeds are planted and become extremely toxic and poisonous.”
Following ISIS’ power waning in Mosul and Baghdadi allegedly asking non-Arab fighters to go back to their respective countries or detonate themselves, the influence and fear of ISIS have been falling. Aleppo has already been liberated and the Syrian Democratic Forces(SDF) have already captured the biggest dam in Syria, just on the outskirts of Raqqa and will continue their march into the city. In a bid to assert its presence and maintain credibility, ISIS has been falsely claiming attacks and may continue to do so to recruit more members from European countries. Philippines and Manchester were just two examples, more may follow.