ISIS’s goal of an Islamic State may be over, but the terrorist group is still a risk using the internet as its main tool to radicalize and do its bidding, reported Reuters.
Citing comments U.S. national security officials made to senators on Wednesday (Dec. 6), Reuters reported the officials said they think ISIS’ loss of an Islamic state isn’t reducing its ability to inspire attacks. Lora Shiao, acting director of intelligence at the National Counterterrorism Center, said that for the past two years, the Sunni Muslim extremist group has been building external operations, and has claimed or been tied to 20 or more attacks against interests in the West since the start of the year.
“ISIS’ capacity to reach sympathizers around the world through its robust social media capability is unprecedented, and gives the group access to large numbers of HVEs,” Shiao said, using the government’s acronym for homegrown violent extremists.
According to the report, the U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS said there are less than 3,000 fighters tied to the Sunni militant group still remaining in Syria and Iraq. Still, Mark Mitchell, acting assistant defense secretary for special operations/low-intensity conflict, said the loss of territory means the terrorist group will rely more on virtual connections and encouraging lone wolf attacks.
Security officials told senators that a growing threat includes ISIS using the losses in the territory to depict the fight as a long-term process. What’s more, they said the internet is the main tool they are using to radicalize people, and that no group has been as successful at it than ISIS.
“This is the new caliphate – in cyberspace,” Ron Johnson, the Republican chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said during the hearing.