HYDERABAD: Whether or not the terror outfit, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), wages its ultimate battle (of al-Amaq or Dabiq as prescribed in the religious prophecy), which some believe might as well happen in India, the very possibility of ISIS extending its ‘governorates’ to permissive regions like Indonesia could be the immediate global threat, Jolene Jerard, an expert on terrorist and extremist groups in Asia, has said.
According to her, while ISIS has been effectively using the social media to form a loose network of operatives- homegrown terrorists, sleeper cells, lone wolfs, foreign fighter returnees and recidivists, it is the sympathisers of ideology who are the biggest threat. “There is a ripple effect on the Asian region and spotting sympathisers is very difficult. They are a threat as they are the ones who provide logistics, transport, resources, etc,” she has said.
Speaking at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Police Academy on terrorist threats, trends and security challenges in Asia, Jerard, who has been following Al-Qaeda and now ISIS for over a decade, called for developing a response strategy, evolution of traditional law enforcement strategies, intelligence-led and community policing.
The ISIS, she said, is different from Al-Qaeda or others in terms of its brutality, ability to garner territory, funding, and massive appeal that leads to foreign fighters joining from across the world. “Even the brutal videos they release are a very clever, intriguing and implicit messaging strategy that catches the attention of a captive audience. Their strategy starts with forming affiliates anywhere in the world to set up a base that would independently flourish, resulting in garnering a territory.”
A five-point strategy is what ISIS believes will lead to forming a caliphate, its ultimate goal. It starts with motivating individuals to support ISIS (Hijrah), form a community (Jamaa’ah), destabilise governments, enable Tamkin and the result will be caliphate (Khilafah).
The richest terror outfit, ISIS, is valued at 2 billion US dollars. It gets most of its revenue from selling oil from the fields of Iraq and Syria into the black market. And appeals to masses by justifying acts of violence based on religious texts. However, it is the trends of powerful social media usage for recruitment and radicalisation, forming a networked terrorism and building of community of trust that leads to forming a network of homegrown terrorists, sleeper cells, lone wolves, foreign fighter returnees and recidivists, she said. Her research also reveals that a sense of isolation, a perception of being under siege, a feeling of religious duty, belonging and romanticizing are other push-pull factors for people joining the outfit.
It is a growing challenge today with growing number of terrorist websites and publications while radical preach freely. “Not so efficient measures of de-radicalisation, recidivism and the lapses in criminal justice system only add to the crisis. Only by more involvement, engagement and building resilience can we build a society hostile to terrorists,” she said.