ISIS claiming credit for blood spilled in its name: Analysts

An Afghan National Army (ANA) soldier keeps watch during an ongoing battle with Taliban militants in the Nad Ali district of Helmand on Dec 22, 2015.
An Afghan National Army (ANA) soldier keeps watch during an ongoing battle with Taliban militants in the Nad Ali district of Helmand on Dec 22, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

PARIS • The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria may be losing ground in its strongholds but as last week's attacks in Indonesia showed, ISIS is rallying other groups under its banner, analysts say.

In most cases, these groups have no direct contact with the ISIS leadership, which is nevertheless happy to claim responsibility for the blood spilled in its name, the analysts say.

"From the start, Islamic State has vowed to take its fight globally, but until recently it has been focused on managing its caliphate in Iraq and Syria," said Mr Michael Kugelman of the Woodrow Wilson Centre in Washington.

With the Iraqi army retaking some of the territory that the group had seized, ISIS "has re-dedicated attention to focusing on a more global approach", he said.

"The big question, after the Jakarta attacks and all of these attacks around the world in recent months that have been claimed by ISIS, is: Are these militants only inspired by ISIS or have they been directly managed by ISIS?" he said.

Mr Kugelman believes that ISIS is for now content to take credit for the attacks, using the "brand recognition" of its name that has spread across the world, partly through social media, without necessarily dedicating resources or manpower to these groups.

"What you have here are disillusioned, alienated militants, who have been fighting with a different organisation, who are interested in identifying themselves with a more dynamic cause.

"And they see ISIS as a very dynamic cause - they are in the media all the time and commit spectacularly brutal attacks."

That is why, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, groups claiming to be ISIS have appeared in recent months, claiming attacks or posing on the Internet with the group's black flag.

"There are breakaway local militant groups seeking a new identity who are joining (ISIS)," Pakistan- based analyst Hasan Askari said.

He said that there was no evidence to suggest that the ISIS leadership had visited the groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan, which are both strongholds of Al-Qaeda.

Amedy Coulibaly, who killed four Jews at a kosher supermarket in Paris in January last year, pledged allegiance to ISIS.

But the investigation has so far found no evidence that he had ever been in contact with the organisation, apart from viewing its propaganda videos on the Internet.

Indonesian police investigating last Thursday's attack on a busy street in Jakarta have pointed the finger at Katibah Nusantara, a combat unit of Malay-speaking ISIS militants.

Yet Mr Kugelman said: "In Indonesia, I heard no indication before these attacks of any form of formal ISIS presence. This is new."

ISIS has put on record its allegiance with extremist groups in eight countries - Algeria, Nigeria, Libya, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan - and claims that it has directed or inspired attacks in at least 17 countries, killing around 1,000 people.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 18, 2016, with the headline 'ISIS claiming credit for blood spilled in its name: Analysts'. Print Edition | Subscribe