At a time when the world is troubled by the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the Islamic terrorist groups have rather seen it is a blessing in disguise to expand their reign of terror and consolidate their strength.
The Islamic terror groups such as Boko Haram and ISIS have used the coronavirus pandemic opportunity to increase their control over areas and also to inflict more terror, reports Forbes.
Boko Haram expands its control
Boko Harem is a Salafi-jihadist Muslim terror organisation founded in 2002 in Nigeria. On Saturday, terrorists associated with Boko Haram and its offshoot Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) killed at least 20 soldiers and 40 civilians in Nigeria’s Brono state. The attack came just days after terrorists killed at least 69 people in a raid on a village in a third area, Gubio. Boko Harem is notoriously known for inflicting terror in West African countries with great magnitude. Boko Haram is based in north-east Nigeria but is also active in neighbouring countries.
Forbes cites a report by Open Doors, an organization working on the topic of religious persecution, and mentions that the terrorist organisations, such as Boko Haram, have significantly expanded their territory. In its report, Open Doors stated that Boko Haram is now looking for expansion and eyeing targets of Sub-Saharan Africa.
On March 23, 2020, the Boko Haram has unleashed terror in north-central African country Chad, leaving at least 98 soldiers dead. Open Doors has suggested that the coronavirus lockdown may provide an opportunity for terror groups such as Boko Haram to further expand its territory.
The terrorist outfit, which is affiliated to Islamic State has a history of unleashing terror against individuals, groups that opposes Boko Haram’s ideologies or support western values. Boko Haram specifically targets Christians as they consider them “non-believers”.
Boko Haram targets women and girls, who are then subjected to physical and mental abuse, rape and sexual violence, forced labour and much more. Boko Haram and its affiliates including the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) are carrying out attacks on civilians and religious minorities throughout Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria.
Islamic State regains its strength
Similarly, Islamic State also known as Daesh, a terror group which unleashed mass atrocities in Syria and Iraq in 2014, seems to have gained strength yet again. The ISIS had taken over control of many parts of Syria and Iraq and carried out atrocities especially against religious minorities.
Even after some military success against ISIS, news reports suggest that the fight is not yet over. On May 3, 2020, Nobel peace prize laureate and advocate for victims of sexual violence, Nadia Murad, warned international community that ISIS continues to remain a significant threat to Iraqis and the global community.
However, the radical Islamic terror groups have found enough time and resources to consolidate and grow during the pandemic when the world’s attention is diverted on coronavirus. These Islamic terrorist organizations depend heavily on ideology to expand reach.
Recently, Nigerian Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau had declared that coronavirus pandemic was brought about by “evil”, claiming that his version of Islam was an “anti-virus”. The IS also pushed propaganda calling on its members to attack the west and exploit its weakness amidst the coronavirus pandemic. These continuing propaganda campaigns promoting extreme ideologies and to expand its control may prove extremely dangerous in the long run.
UN cautions against terror attacks during the pandemic
In April, the Secretary-General of United Nations (UN) Antonio Guterres had also cautioned the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) that the coronavirus pandemic will be threatening international peace and security as terrorists might use this opportunity to launch a bio-terror attack.
Terrorist outfits, he said, may see a window of opportunity to strike while the attention of most governments was turned towards the current coronavirus pandemic. “The weaknesses and lack of preparedness exposed by this pandemic,” the UN chief said, adding, “Provide a window onto how a bio-terrorist attack might unfold and may increase its risks”.
“Non-state groups,” he cautioned “could gain access to virulent strains that could pose similar devastation to societies around the globe”.