How does Isis benefit from terrorist attacks - Dialogue with the Islamic World

Health authorities around the world are fighting the devastating coronavirus pandemic. In many places there is chaos due to the new virus - but one group suits it: the terrorist organization "Islamic State" (IS).

In an editorial released last week, the terrorist group described the pandemic as God-made "painful agony" for the "crusader nations" - a term used to refer to the Western countries participating in the anti-ISIS military operation.

The fear factor has a greater impact on people than the epidemic itself in many places, say the extremists. The western world is "on the verge of a major economic catastrophe because it has restricted mobility, markets are collapsing and public life is at a standstill".

According to the British researcher Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamim, "IS" is said to have said that "we ask God to increase their torments and to save the believers from it".

Distracted from the fight against ISIS

The outbreak of the coronavirus could strengthen the "IS" in its stance. At the same time, the pandemic is also influencing further action against the terrorist group, which had actually been largely defeated militarily since last year.

In Iraq, for example, NATO announced earlier this month that it would suspend training for soldiers for 60 days due to the pandemic. The result: Great Britain's Defense Minister Ben Wallace reduced the use of British troops. The training pace has dropped significantly, it said.

In addition, the members of the anti-IS coalition in Iraq and Syria must take precautions to prevent an outbreak within the troops. Because the corona virus has now also arrived in Syria. Although US authorities assumed that the measures would have no impact on the continuity of the operation against "IS", the pandemic is undermining efforts to fight the terrorist organization locally.

"The coronavirus pandemic will inevitably draw all attention and resources," said Colin P. Clarke, senior research fellow at New Yorker Soufan Center. As a result, the focus will no longer be on combating ISIS.

"But IS fighters are of course also vulnerable. The militants are not immune to the virus. And if they rely on false medical or health information - which could definitely be - it is possible that they too will lose their fighters to the virus. "

ISIS terrorists managed to take over the first floor in Hasakah prison removing internal walls & doors.
some of them managed to escape and our forces are searching to capture them.
anti-terror forces are dealing with the situation in the first floor to finish riots in the prison.

- Mustafa Bali (@mustefabali) March 29, 2020

Taking advantage of the chaos

It was only in mid-March that the terrorist group warned its members against traveling to Europe and other badly affected regions. Instead, they would receive some kind of divine protection from the virus if they engage in jihad, it said.

One possible way of doing this could be to free other militants, their wives and children from prisons in the region. As early as October, over 750 people suspected of being in contact with "IS" had left the Ain Issa camp in northeast Syria. They succeeded in doing so because Kurdish armed forces were diverted by a Turkish offensive.

"If the virus spreads in prisons and detention centers, which it could already do now, the Kurds will also have to postpone their mission as agents for the administration of some prisons," said Clarke, author of the book "After the Caliphate" (After the Caliphate).

This is exactly what the so-called "Islamic State" is obviously speculating on. In Iraq alone, around 20,000 suspected IS fighters are currently being held in prisons across the country.

No matter how many members of the terrorist group could help break out of prison through other IS fighters, it would definitely strengthen the extremists' operational clout. "IS sees the pandemic as an opportunity and wants to use it for itself," sums up the British researcher Al-Tamimi.

Tom Allinson & Lewis Sanders

© Deutsche Welle 2020