Bloody July

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    Time to act is now not later.

    The list below shows attacks carried out by ISIS in the month of July. The numbers of attacks and variety of locations necessitates a list rather than just words. The objective is to highlight the carnage that the world has witnessed this month.

    Date Location Type Dead Injured
    1st Dhaka, Bangladesh Shooting 29 50
    3rd Baghdad, Iraq Suicide Bombing 325+ 246+
    5th Um al-Housh, Syria Execution 40
    5th Um al-Housh, Syria Suicide Bombing 25+
    7th Balad, Iraq Suicide Bombing 100+ 75+
    12th Baghdad, Iraq Suicide Bombing 20+ 56+
    13th Baghdad, Iraq Suicide Bombing 10 11
    14th Nice, France Vehicle Attack 84+ 303
    14th Mosul,Iraq Execution 27+
    19th Mosul,Iraq Shootings 22
    22nd Munich, Germany Shooting 10 35
    23rd Kabul, Afghanistan Suicide Bombing 80+ 260+
    24th Baghdad, Iraq Suicide Bombing 26+ 50+
    27th Qamishli, Syria Suicide Bombing 48 140

     

    The list is much longer that includes more heinous attacks committed by terrorist organizations such as Al-Shabab in Somalia and Boko Haram in Nigeria. This particular list shows attacks that have either been directly planned or carried out by ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) or by ‘lone wolves’ inspired by ISIS propaganda.

    It is quite evident that after the liberation of the city of Fallujah in Iraq from ISIS control last month, the militant group ISIS has upped the ante and is out on a killing spree leaving hundreds dead along the way. Maximum blood has been spilt in Baghdad and Syria due to the geographical advantage ISIS enjoys in the area.

    450 to 500 deaths in Iraq have also forced the rebel forces to re think their strategy of liberating ISIS strongholds. While the Iraqi Army safeguards its recent triumph in Fallujah, preparations are afoot to take back the city of Mosul, another ISIS stronghold.

    The Iraq army will spearhead the operation but there are conditional contributions from other Sunni tribes. For example the Peshmerga fighters of Iraqi Kurdistan are willing to help but the 10,000 Turkmens that are on offer from Turkey will not work with the Kurds.

    The logistical support that the US is offering is also conditional whereby the inclusion of Shia fighters is being resisted due to the atrocities committed by the Shia militias, during the Fallujah campaign, on Sunni civilians there.

    The situation in Iraq is one that is complex with multiple stakeholders, both local and international. While they share a common enemy and the same objective of eradicating ISIS from their homeland, there is infighting amongst them, especially the Sunni-Shia conflict.

    Recently the Chilcot report from the UK was released that highlighted the wrong disastrous decision to invade Iraq made by the Bush and Blair administration under false and fabricated intelligence of weapons of mass destruction. The war did irreparable damage that Iraq never had a chance to recover from. ISIS is a byproduct of that 8 year occupation after which they left, only to return in 2014 to provide air support against ISIS, a creation they themselves are responsible for.

    Syria is another animal altogether. The attempt to topple Bashar-Al-Assad during the Arab spring resulted in a civil war that is still ongoing. The Syrian government with help from Russia and Iran are trying to regain lost territory. The US is backing the main opposition alliance there, ‘The National Coalition’ with limited assistance to “moderate” rebels.

    ISIS is fighting to increase its territory, something the US has been trying to stop with continuous airstrikes. In the process 470,000 lives have been lost with 7.6 Million displaced. The US carried out its biggest airstrike on ISIS in two years this month that has resulted in a still disputed number of civilian casualties ranging from anywhere between 74 and 203.

    The death of a 14 year old girl who succumbed to her injuries has forced the US military to investigate. ISIS has lost territory but an attack on a heavily guarded, not easily penetrable Kurdish area on Wednesday killing 48 people shows that it is still a very potent and effective killing machine.

    The realities of Iraq and Syria do need get the same amount of airtime, condemnation, international attention, shock and horror as the attacks in the West do. The reason being is the frequency of attacks in these areas is much higher and the duration of these interconnected wars too long. Simply put, Baghdad is no Paris and Raqa is no Munich.

    The US and its European allies reserve their outrage for attacks on their own soil and the frequency of those attacks this month has forced them to rethink their entire internal counter terrorism strategy and immigration policy.

    The most violent and grotesque of these took place in Nice France when a Tunisian born French resident permit holder killed more than 84 and injured 303, including children and infants, by ramming a truck into a mile long busy crowd celebrating Bastille Day. To maximize the casualties he swerved the truck in all directions. The brakes were cut as well. He was shot dead by police to bring the truck to a halt.

    Germany too has faced multiple attacks this month. Four in total, the shooting in Munich being the deadliest in terms of casualties with 10 dead and 35 injured. Since these attacks, French president Francois Hollande has vowed to step up efforts to bomb ISIS while Germany has approached the situation by admitting intelligence failures and a need to reassess the capability of their intelligence gathering network.

    Since the 7/7 London bombings in 2005, there have been no major terror attacks in the UK. The government of the time decided to focus their anti-terrorism strategy at home on a robust intelligence network with help from international intelligence agencies as well.

    The result is that Britain is one the most watched countries in the world with a very effective CCTV camera network. Around eight terror plots have been foiled in the last 12 months. Other European countries now have to look to the UK to improve their homeland security through a better more effective intelligence system.

    ISIS has already arrived in Afghanistan. The latest attack targeted the Hazara community in Afghanistan during a peaceful protest. More than 80 people have died and ISIS has more attacks on the Hazara community. The Dhaka attacks are another testament to ISIS‘s powerful recruitment capabilities. All six attackers were Bangladeshi citizens who are believed to be wealthy university students from prominent families whose parents have secular credentials.

    ISIS has been trying to penetrate Pakistan as well. There have been reports of people going to Syria to join ISIS from Pakistan. The Safoora Goth attack, also carried out by University students in Karachi was partly claimed by ISIS, their pamphlets were also found on the bus. Jamia Hafsa, a girl’s seminary an extension of the Lal Masjid in the centre of Islamabad pledged allegiance to ISIS in a video, inviting them to Pakistan.

    The ‘burqa maulvi’ Abdul Aziz who runs Lal Masjid also pledged allegiance to the group in 2014. Tashfeen Malik, the female accomplice in the San Bernadino shooter had links to Jamia Hafsa and had pledged allegiance to ISIS before the attack last year.

    The ISIS threat is very real and the time to act is now. We are fighting a multi-dimensional war in Pakistan at the moment with frontline operations in the North and intelligence based operations in main cities and other urban centers. The luxury of time does not exist. ISIS’s reach is evident from the amount of carnage they have been able to generate via online recruitment and propaganda material.

    We have to monitor suspicious movements to and from Syria. Intelligence sharing between military and civilian law enforcement agencies is imperative to generate actionable useful information. Europe woke up after losing too many of their people. Iraq Syria and Afghanistan are most vulnerable due to years of war and instability that has left an ineffective corrupt security apparatus, both military and civilian.

    Since Zarb-e-Azb the security situation has improved but a lot remains to be done. The promises made after the APS tragedy to implement a NAP and fund NACTA need to be seen through. Otherwise we too will only be left condemning the attacks and mourning the dead, something we have done too much of in the past.