Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, Alex Younger, the chief of Britain’s foreign intelligence service MI6, said that Daesh’s* setbacks in Syria may contribute to the strengthening of Al-Qaeda.
“Al-Qaeda, which has always been in a rivalry, and almost zero sum relationship with Daesh, has, I think, undergone a certain resurgence as a result of the degradation of Daesh. It is definitely not down and out”, Reuters cited Younger as saying.
The MI6 head further elaborated that the UK has enhanced its security cooperation with its European allies to deal with such issues as militant fighters and jihadi brides flooding back to Europe after Daesh suffered territorial losses in Syria and Iraq.
“We are very concerned about this because all experience tells us that once someone has put themselves in that sort of position they are likely to have acquired the skills and connections that make them potentially very dangerous. The reality is that so far, it has been a completely manageable problem. I can’t predict accurately what will happen in future, but it’s a very complex environment”, he said.
Younger also pointed out that Daesh has morphed and is proving “adept at inspiring at attacks rather than directing them”.
Last month, Britain’s counter-terror police chief Neil Basu told The Independent that US President Donald Trump had handed Daesh a “propaganda victory” that could boost the group’s efforts to recruit and radicalise people in the UK when he announced the withdrawal of US troops from Syria.
Daesh broke away from Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda after the group’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi decided to pursue the idea of creating an actual Islamic caliphate.
Having taken advantage of the chaos in Syria, fomented by the civil war, Daesh, which previously operated in Iraq, managed to capture vast territories in both Middle Eastern countries, including major cities, such as Mosul, Fallujah, Raqqa and many others.
In August 2014, al-Baghdadi declared a cross-border caliphate in Iraq and Syria – the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. At its peak in mid-2015, Daesh controlled about half of the territory of both countries, with some experts assessing that its territory was roughly the size of the UK.
Al-Qaeda, a terrorist group with a vast network of jihadists operating around the world, predominantly in the Middle East and Central Asia, was eclipsed by Daesh after the rupture.
Al-Qaeda is known for resonant terror attacks with the most notorious involving the hijacking of airplanes to bring down the twin towers of the World Trade Centre and attack the Pentagon on 11 September 2011. The 9/11 attacks claimed the lives of some 3,000 people.
*Daesh, also known as ISIS/ISIL/IS/Islamic State, is a terrorist group banned in Russia and many other countries.