ISIS threats for Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Europe and the USA
During a surprise visit to Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared victory over terrorist groups operating in Syria following a 3 years long military campaign against ISIS and other groups. In addition, the US military plans to maintain a foothold in Syria indefinitely in order to prevent the resurgence of ISIS in the region despite President Donald Trump declaring victory over ISIS in Syria and in Iraq. All these announcements mark a shift into a new phase in the ‘war on terror’ as, officially, the Islamic Caliphate is no more, but that doesn’t mean that ISIS has been fully disbanded as an organization.
In this sense, after losing most of the territory it controlled after successive defeats, ISIS is no longer bound to operating from a geographically-limited base. Previously, ISIS differentiated itself from other terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda by holding on to and controlling territory from which it could intimidate local populations, carry out regional attacks, and launch global attacks. Instead now, the group no longer has ‘safe havens’ to operate from but the threat isn’t fully eliminated since ISIS might try to relocate its bases elsewhere, perhaps in Libya, Afghanistan or Yemen.
Furthermore, ISIS will concentrate the majority its efforts towards plotting attacks against the ‘West’, which will maintain security threats at either current or higher levels. This stems from the fact that ISIS harbored many foreign fighters from Europe who will return to their home countries with military training and experience in hand to form ‘sleeper agents.’ The threat that Europe faces is much higher due to flows of refugees from war-torn countries like Syria into the continent and the relative ‘open-border’ policy that is exploited.
Nonetheless, regardless of the defeat of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, the group will most likely continue to export its form of Radical Islamic terrorism by increasing the number of attacks against western countries. According to reports, because of the propaganda value it brings to ISIS, the European countries facing the most threat from terrorist attacks are Turkey, France, the United Kingdom, the United States of America,Germany and Belgium. In effect, for Christmas Holidays and New Year’s Eve celebrations, ISIS threatened to carry out attacks on New York City/USA, London/UK, Paris/France, Rome/Italy and elsewhere.
Consequently, European countries and the US are set on high alert due to the threat of lone wolf attacks, especially after a failed bombing attack in New York on Dec. 12th 2017. As such, reports already suggest that ISIS fanatics are planning for attacks as seen in Melbourne/Australia on Nov. 29th where police arrested a suspect trying to get a hold of an assault rifle in preparation for a plot on New Year’s Eve. However, most if not all of these attackers were inspired by ISIS but didn’t necessarily coordinate with the group, meaning that the group doesn’t have direct control over its supporters which makes it more difficult to profile potential terrorists.
In response to such threats, European security forces have set themselves to prevent any attacks on crowded spaces (i.e. places of worship, shopping malls, public transportation system, and holiday events,) such as the attack on Berlin’s Christmas market (19/12/16). As a result, security measures will be deployed in cities across Europe and elsewhere consisting of concrete barriers, security checks, deployment of armed personnel and so on. Nevertheless, despite European countries carrying out counter-terrorism operations, the US issued travel warnings to Europe citing recent terrorist attacks to justify to its citizens the need to remain vigilant.