News from Syria: Prison attack latest sign of ISIS resurgence

Picture Last week, mourners gathered at a shrine in the city of Najaf to pay their respects to an Iraqi soldier killed in an Islamic ...

PictureLast week, mourners gathered at a shrine in the city of Najaf to pay their respects to an Iraqi soldier killed in an Islamic State attack.
Credit…Ali Najafi/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

BAGHDAD — A daring attack on a Syrian prison that houses thousands of Islamic State detainees. A series of strikes against military forces in neighboring Iraq. The broadcast of a video showing the beheading of an abducted Iraqi policeman.

Evidence of an Islamic State resurgence in Syria and Iraq is mounting daily, three years after militants lost their last territorial foothold in the so-called caliphate, which once spanned large parts of both countries. The fact that ISIS was able to mount multiple, coordinated and sophisticated attacks is proof that what were thought to be disparate sleeper cells are reemerging as a more serious threat.

“It is a wake-up call for regional players, for national players that ISIS is not over, the fight is not over,” said Kawa Hassan, Middle East and Africa director. North of the Stimson Center think tank. “It shows ISIS’s resilience to retaliate when and where it chooses.”

On Thursday, Islamic State fighters raided a prison in the northeastern Syrian town of Hasaka in a bid to free the 3,500 IS prisoners held there and took them hostage a group of boys detained for use as human shields. The assault embroiled the US military in what has become the largest confrontation between US forces and Islamic State in three years.

On Tuesday, Islamic State attackers still controlled part of Hasaka prison, even after the United States sent ground troops and air support to Kurdish-led forces trying to retake it.

In Iraq last week, around the same time the prison attack began, Islamic State fighters stormed an army outpost in Diyala province, killing 10 soldiers and an officer in the deadliest attack in several years against an Iraqi military base. Gunmen approached the base from three sides late at night while some soldiers slept.

The success of the attack has raised fears that some of the same conditions in Iraq that enabled the rise of the Islamic State in 2014 may once again make room for it to reconstitute itself.

In December, ISIS abducted four Iraqi hunters in a mountainous region of northeastern Iraq, including a police colonel. The militants beheaded the policeman and then released a horrific video of the abduction that was reminiscent of what was once common practice under Islamic State rule.

The attacks in Iraq, carried out by ISIS sleeper cells in remote mountainous and desert areas, have exposed a lack of coordination between Iraqi government forces and the peshmerga, the Kurdish forces that answer to the region’s government of Iraqi Kurdistan. Many attacks take place in disputed territory claimed by both the Iraqi Kurdish government and the central government.

Ardian Shajkovci, director of the American Counterterrorism Targeting & Resilience Institute, said many of the Islamic State fighters arrested in attacks since the group lost the last of its territory three years ago were younger and came from families with older members who had ties to ISIS.

“If so, this is a new generation of ISIS recruits, which is changing the calculus and the threat landscape in many ways,” he said.

Iraq has struggled to manage tens of thousands of Iraqi citizens who are relatives of ISIS fighters and who have been collectively punished and placed in detention camps, which are now seen as breeding grounds for radicalization.

Corrupt Iraqi security forces have left some bases in the country without supplies and allowed soldiers and officers to neglect their duties, contributing to the collapse of entire army divisions which withdrew in 2014 rather than confront IS.

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Newsrust - US Top News: News from Syria: Prison attack latest sign of ISIS resurgence
News from Syria: Prison attack latest sign of ISIS resurgence
Newsrust - US Top News
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