By William Tucker
Contributor, In Homeland Security
The past few years have been remarkably terrible for the Islamic State. With the loss of territory in Syria and Iraq followed by the loss of money and fighters, IS has become a shell of its former self.
However, these losses in no way imply that this group is defunct or incapable of wreaking havoc. The multi-target attack in Indonesia this past weekend aptly demonstrates that IS retains avid followers capable of striking at soft targets.
Furthermore, the seemingly impromptu knife attack in France claimed by IS shows that its ideology continues to inspire devotees to execute attacks with whatever implement is available.
Recent Surabaya Church Attacks Committed by IS-Affiliated Families
Indonesian police have identified the attackers of three churches in the city of Surabaya as a family of six. The father, Dita Oepriarto, was the leader of the IS-affiliated Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) in Indonesia. He targeted one church, while his two sons targeted another.
Oepriarto’s wife, along with their two daughters, executed a suicide bombing of yet a third church in the same region. All told, these attacks killed 18 and injured 40 people.
The next day, a family of five likewise associated with JAD bombed a checkpoint at Surabaya police headquarters. Fortunately, no one was killed.
Terrorist Attacks a Continuing Struggle for Indonesian Government
Indonesia does have a history of radicalism and its government has always struggled to defeat such movements. The nation has a large population spread over numerous jungle islands, making policing, let alone modernization, expensive and profoundly difficult.
Outside assistance has been erratic due to human rights abuses by the government. Reportedly, there has been some improvement. The improvement in human rights led the Obama administration to lift prohibitions on military sales to the country, but that move only marginally improved police and military operations.
Indonesia still has a long way to go in dealing with this type of militancy. As a result, IS will continue to exploit any government shortfall in security.
UK’s MI5 Director Notes that Islamic State Attacks in UK Continue
Addressing these very security challenges during an address in Berlin on May 14, Andrew Parker, the director of the UK’s MI5 security service, stated that, “Daesh (ISIS) still aspires to direct devastating and more complex attacks despite territorial losses…and threats from al-Qaida and other Islamist terror groups have not gone away.”
In fact, Parker went on to say that U.K. security forces have thwarted 12 IS-inspired or IS-directed attacks in the past year alone. Security forces in the U.K. grapple with myriad threats from terrorist groups of different stripes, but it appears that IS still focuses on striking the United Kingdom.
Small-Scale Terrorist Attacks Remain Hard to Disrupt
Indeed, IS has had several successes in Europe. Although it appears that the lack of funding and dearth of trained operatives are taking a toll in the group, smaller scale attacks are still difficult to disrupt.
This difficulty in preventing attacks was readily apparent in France over the weekend. A native Chechen known to police attacked several random passersby in central Paris, killing one and injuring four. Police managed to kill the attacker.
However, this attack shows the difficulty of preventing every attack, even when the individual is a known radical.
In addition to nations with poor security, these low-level attacks using readily available knives or vehicles have become the mainstay of the Islamic State, despite the group’s continued desire to execute larger, more sophisticated attacks. The fact is IS remains highly capable of wreaking havoc whenever and wherever it chooses.
The Islamic State may not be able to carry out finely polished, well-executed attacks in every location. However, it remains effective by inspiring individuals of a certain mindset to kill or maim innocent victims with whatever method is at their disposal.View on In Homeland Security