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    Police officers stand next to a black Islamic State flag that was seized in a raid, at a news conference held at the police headquarters in Rome, Italy, January 10, 2017

    Daesh 'Demon' Lingers to Haunt Europe Despite Imminent Defeat in Middle East

    © REUTERS / Tony Gentile
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    Daesh is facing military defeat in Iraq and Syria, but the group's propaganda arm is tougher to subdue, Wieland Schneider writes in the Austrian newspaper Die Presse.

    This image posted online on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016, by supporters of the Islamic State militant group on an anonymous photo sharing website, purports to show a gunman firing at an unseen target, east of of Palmyra, east of Palmyra city, in Homs provence, Syria
    © AP Photo / Militant Photo
    The amount of Syrian and Iraqi territory controlled by Daesh has decreased significantly after concerted efforts by government forces, with foreign assistance.

    In 2016, the amount of territory controlled by Daesh in Iraq and Syria decreased by around a quarter to 60.4 thousand sq. km, the Russian ambassador to Syria Alexander Kinshchak told Sputnik earlier this month.

    Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, the terror group formerly known as al-Nusra Front, controlled one fifth of Syria in 2015. With help from Russian aerospace forces, the Syrian Army has managed to reduce this proportion to no more than 10-12 percent, Kinshchak said.

    Despite these successes, Wednesday's attack in London is a reminder that Daesh maintains the ability to strike Europe. Khalid Masood murdered three passers-by and a policeman in an attack that was characterized as a "terrorist attack" and claimed by Daesh, although there is no evidence that the terror group had any prior knowledge of the attack.

    Daesh and al-Qaeda have called on followers to carry out attacks using cars or other weapons which are easily obtainable.

    "If you are not able to find an IED or a bullet, then single out the disbelieving American, Frenchman, or any of their allies. Smash his head with a rock, or slaughter him with a knife, or run him over with your car, or throw him down from a high place, or choke him, or poison him," Daesh spokesman Abu Mohammad al-Adnani declared in 2014.

    A so-called "lone wolf" terrorist can carry out this kind of attack, which plays into Daesh propaganda but requires no planning or resources from the terror group.

    A 2014 Daesh video aimed at a French-speaking audience asked potential recruits to carry out terror attacks at home if they can't travel to the Middle East.

    "If you are unable to come to Syria or Iraq, then pledge allegiance in your place — pledge allegiance in France," a French jihadi tells viewers.

    "There are weapons and cars available and targets ready to be hit," he says in the video, entitled "What Are You Waiting For?"

    "Even poison is available, so poison the water and food of at least one of the enemies of Allah. Kill them and spit in their faces and run over them with your cars."

    As well as publishing propaganda videos, the Daesh propaganda unit has also published a series of newsletters. The first was called Dabiq, which was renamed to Rumiyah (Arabic for Rome) after Daesh was driven out of the north Syrian town of Dabiq by the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army.

    Writing in the Austrian newspaper Die Presse, Wieland Schneider points out that calling for European residents to attack their fellow citizens makes for light work for the Daesh propaganda unit.

    "The Daesh propaganda unit has an easy task. They just wait until an assassin strikes somewhere in Europe and then takes responsibility for the bloodshed. Whether the attacker was really directed by Daesh or whether he committed the crime independently of the jihadist organization's structures does not matter. Daesh has secured international attention," Schneider wrote.

    "The Daesh propaganda unit is counting above all on the psychological effect of such attacks and hopes that they make the organization look stronger than really it is. From a strategic point of view, a completely different picture emerges: the so-called caliphate that the extremists announced in Iraq and Syria in summer 2014 is about to collapse."

    Schneider says that although "it is just a matter of time before the jihadists are finally expelled from their former stronghold (Mosul)," individual jihadists in the Middle East and Europe will keep the Daesh "demon" alive.

    "The evil spirit of the extremist organization will continue to spread – in Iraq and Syria as well as in Europe." 

    Schneider calls for a political solution to the Syrian conflict which will help prevent the formation or more extremist groups there. He also calls on Europeans to tackle the social problems which have allowed the radicalization of some members of society.

    "The problem of radicalization is above all a problem of European societies, which must be solved in Europe. Only then will the problem of terror be under control," Schneider says.


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    defeat, military, caliphate, Daesh, Syria, Iraq
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