Why It Matters

ISIS expanding global battle

The terrorist attacks in Manchester, the Philippine city of Marawi, Jakarta and the south of Cairo which were claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) came as the militant group called for an "all-out war" on "infidels" at the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

As aspiring fighters face increasing difficulty travelling to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS, the group has changed its tack by asking these radicalised supporters to launch attacks on home turf.

The group made similar calls during Ramadan in the previous two years, grossly misappropriating the holy month as they misrepresent it as a time when followers who sacrifice themselves will receive rewards in spades.

Last year was particularly bloody, with a suicide bombing in Baghdad claiming nearly 300 lives, an attack at the Istanbul airport that killed 45 people and a shooting massacre at an Orlando nightclub that left 49 dead.

As ISIS loses ground in the Middle East, it has sought to expand its global battle.

Fighters from Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore were among the ISIS-backed Maute militants still clashing with Philippine forces in Marawi in the southern island group of Mindanao, an indication that the extremists have heeded a call by ISIS to join affiliated groups if they cannot travel to Syria or Iraq.

ISIS has also made it extremely easy for its supporters to become "martyrs", lowering the threshold to anyone who goes on a rampage with a butcher knife, or mows down pedestrians in a car.

As multiple forces continue to advance on ISIS in Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria - driving foreign fighters away from these cities and back home - and as governments make it harder for would-be fighters to enter Syria and Iraq, the worry is that terrorist recruitment, training and execution will happen more and more on home ground.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 29, 2017, with the headline 'ISIS expanding global battle'. Print Edition | Subscribe