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Sunday, September 7, 2014

6 PLACES ISIS MIGHT BE RIGHT NOW

Six places ISIS might be Kristina Wong - 09-07-14 08:31 AM EDT The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has established a stronghold in the border area between northern Syria and Iraq, but officials and experts are watching closely to see if its influence will spread to other regions. Experts say that so far, ISIS has mostly encouraged Muslims to travel to Syria and Iraq to fight, rather than seeking to establish cells around the world. However, there are reports of ISIS activity already in a handful of countries outside of Iraq and Syria. Indeed, a former ISIS supporter recently told CNN: "The main and principal goal of the Islamic State that they tell their new members is to establish an Islamic state that will encompass the Arab world ... And after that, we go to other countries." Officials and experts say there is also the risk of Al Qaeda affiliates aligning themselves with ISIS, though that has yet to happen. "What we're really talking about are sympathy and people are who are really excited about it," said Daniel Byman, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Here are six countries beyond Iraq and Syria where ISIS appears to be active. Lebanon ISIS, working with an al Qaeda affiliate in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra, recently seized at least 35 Lebanese soldiers and security personnel during clashes in Arsal, Lebanon, which borders the Syrian region of Qalamoun, and might have recently beheaded one of them, according to Human Rights Watch. ISIS has also been blamed for threats against Christians that have been spray-painted on church walls across Lebanon, according to local news reports. The latest incident occurred Thursday in the Lebanese neighborhood of Tripoli, at the Mar Elias Church in the Minieh neighborhood. The message, spray-painted in black in Arabic, read "the Islamic State will break the cross. ... We came to slaughter you, you worshippers of the cross." The messages were reportedly in response to the burning of ISIS flags by some Lebanese youth. According to one expert, a Lebanon-based media outlet, Aisha Media Center, has officially pledged loyalty to the Islamic State. Byman, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said while there have been ISIS operations in Lebanon, it is unclear whether there is actually a cell there. "That is the magic question," he said. Yemen There is some indication of support for ISIS in Yemen, according to experts. Members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) have already pledged support for ISIS. In July, an influential Salafi cleric openly called on AQAP followers to side with ISIS and pledge allegiance to its leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. An expert, Saeed Al-Jamhi, head of the Al-Jamhi Center for Strategic Studies, recently told the Yemen Times that there were ISIS gunmen training fighters in Yemen, and some AQAP members fighting in Iraq. He also said there were divisions within AQAP over whether to support ISIS, but predicted that division would fade as ISIS increases its stature. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) expressed concern in June that ISIS could join up with the al Qaeda affiliate. “So you have all of these new relationships happening in a way that’s really concerning,” he said. Afghanistan and Pakistan ISIS has been distributing "introductory" pamphlets in Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to a recent Newsweek report. "I was given a copy by a friend who is an Afghan national," said a Pakistani resident. “He brought several copies with him to distribute in the Afghan refugee camps in Peshawar and Charsadda.” A local commander of a Pakistani Taliban offshoot told Newsweek the group had its own local agenda against the Pakistan state, but that they considered ISIS "brothers." “We are not affiliated with ISIL, but consider them brothers," he said, using an alternate acronym for the group. Saudi Arabia There is strong support for parts of ISIS's agenda in Saudi Arabia, Byman said, including fundraising and recruiting networks. Saudi nationals are estimated to make up the second largest contingent of foreign fighters in ISIS, after Tunisia. A groundswell of Twitter support came from the country after ISIS's takeover of Mosul in June, according to one news report. In May, Saudi forces called on the public to report any instances of publication or distribution of ISIS pamphlets, according to the report. And Riyadh recently arrested an imam for glorifying Al Qaeda and the leader of ISIS, according to The Guardian. There have also been reports of pro-ISIS graffiti on schools in the al-Naseem neighborhood of Riyadh. Indonesia ISIS is gaining a following in Indonesia, the country with the largest Muslim population in the world. There is reportedly a local branch of ISIS in Sempu, Malang, known as Asharul Khilafah that has been established for at least a month, according to the Jakarta Globe. And recently, an imprisoned terrorist convict and spiritual leader of terrorist network Jamaah Islamiyah, Abu Bakar Ba'asyir, officially pledged allegiance to ISIS with 23 other prisoners from jail, located in Central Java. Jakarta estimates that at least 60 of its citizens are fighting for ISIS, and an ISIS-linked Facebook page expressed hope that a temple in Java would be demolished, according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal.