In just three years since its emergence as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the group based in Raqqa, Syria, has changed the face of global terrorism and thrown up a set of complex challenges for security agencies around the world.
Older terror organisations such as , and closer to home, groups such as Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, have been built around the model of a core leadership and cells of fighters recruited and specially trained to carry out attacks, but the Islamic State has turned this concept on its head by co-opting any jihadi anywhere who is willing to act on its behalf.
The danger posed by such a strategy was driven home to Indian security officials when a group of home-grown jihadis stormed an elite café in the diplomatic quarter of the Bangladeshi capital last week and butchered 20 hostages, including a young Indian woman, before they were gunned down.
According to most accounts emerging from Dhaka, the men who carried out the attack – a mix of youngsters educated in Bangladesh’s top schools and universities and madrasa students – had links to the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh. And yet it was IS that claimed the attack and posted gruesome photos of the victims, along with an accurate body count, hours before the siege was ended.
The IS outlined its strategy of outsourcing attacks as far back as September 2014, when the group’s spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani essentially said no permission is required for standalone assaults.
In a message advocating attacks by Muslims on civilians in all countries opposing the IS, al-Adnani had said: “Do not ask for anyone’s advice and do not seek anyone’s verdict. Kill the disbeliever whether he is civilian or military, for they have the same ruling. Both of them are disbelievers. Both of them are considered to be waging war (the civilian by belonging to a state waging war against the Muslims).”
The chilling message was repeated in al-Adnani’s speech calling for “lone wolf” attacks during the holy month of Ramzan this year: “The smallest action you do in the heart of their land is dearer to us than the largest action by us…Do not ask for anyone’s permission.”