This picture released on Dec 8, 2018 shows Under-Secretary for the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Office Vladimir Voronkov in a meeting with Jordanian King Abdullah II (not in frame) in the Red Sea port of Aqaba in Jordan. (PHOTO / AFP)
UNITED NATIONS — A senior UN counter-terrorism official on Monday warned against complacency over the defeat of the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group.
Despite recent successes against the IS and its affiliates, the threat posed by returning and relocating fighters, as well as from individuals inspired by them, remains high and has a global reach, Vladimir Voronkov, under secretary-general of UN Counter-Terrorism Office, told the Security Council.
Despite recent successes against the IS and its affiliates, the threat posed by returning and relocating fighters, as well as from individuals inspired by them, remains high and has a global reach
Vladimir Voronkov, under secretary-general of UN Counter-Terrorism Office
"I would therefore emphasize (that) the recent ISIL losses should not lead to complacency at any level," said Voronkov, using the initials of another name for the group: the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
Having its center of gravity in Iraq and Syria, where it is reported to control between 14,000 and 18,000 militants, including up to 3,000 foreign terrorist fighters, the IS has continued to evolve into a covert network operating at the local level and organizing itself at the provincial level, with a reported intent to undermine any form of stabilization on the ground, said Voronkov in a briefing to the Security Council.
Despite the more concealed or locally embedded activities of IS cells, its central leadership retains an influence and maintains an intent to generate internationally directed attacks and thereby still plays an important role in advancing the group's objectives, he said. This is exacerbated by the challenge of foreign terrorist fighters who either are leaving conflict zones, or those who are returning or who are about to be released from prison, he added.
The so-called frustrated travelers, namely those who have failed to reach the core conflict zone or have been redirected elsewhere either by the IS or at their own initiative, may contribute to increasing the threat, which has already been observed in Europe and Southeast Asia, he noted.
Likewise, the handling of dependents, radicalized women and traumatized minors pose challenges and potential serious threats, he said.
In terms of the IS's financial strength, despite some loss of revenue due to territorial loss, the IS could sustain its operations through accessible reserves, in cash or investment in businesses, ranging between 50 million and 300 million US dollars. IS cells are also reported to generate revenue through criminal activities, said Voronkov.
UN Assistant Secretary-General Michele Coninsx, who also briefed the Security Council on IS threats to international peace and security, warned that the IS continues to represent "many complex challenges."
"Despite its dwindling control over territory that once provided it with resources and a base to plan and launch attacks, ISIL continues to present us with many complex challenges," she told the council.
Although the change in circumstances has forced the IS core to adapt and transform itself into a covert and more locally focused network in Iraq, the IS has retained its global intent and global networks with not only a presence in Iraq and Syria, but many other regions in the world, said Coninsx, who is also head of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, a UN Secretariat body that assists the Security Council subsidiary agency of the Counter-Terrorism Committee.
Of all the international terrorist organizations, she warned, the IS remains the most likely to carry out a large-scale, complex attack. And its continued determination to undermine stabilization efforts and to fuel sectarian tension is also a major concern.
Both Coninsx and Voronkov called for a global approach to deal with terrorism.
"We shall continue to work together with our many implementing partners -- including member states, other UN entities, international and regional organizations, civil society, academia and the private sector -- to ensure a holistic and effective approach to this grave threat to international peace and security," said Coninsx.
Voronkov said terrorism is a global challenge that has grown in magnitude and impact over the last several decades. "It does not recognize any geographical or perceived borders. Given the complexity, it is only through a well-coordinated multilateral response that we can address this challenge."
HONG KONG NEWS