Coronavirus pandemic has affected the activity of the terrorists of the “Islamic State”

(ORDO NEWS) — Although terrorist groups have hailed the coronavirus as a “warrior of Allah,” a new study has found that anti-COVID measures curfews and travel restrictions have reduced the number of ISIS attacks*, especially in densely populated areas.

American scientists from Yale University and the University of Maryland, using the example of the Islamic State*, found out how the lockdown during the Covid-19 pandemic reduced the number of terrorist attacks.

Moreover, these effects are most likely associated with short-term changes in the goals and logistics within the banned group, and not in its resources.

The Islamic State* is an Islamist terrorist organization operating in Iraq and Syria, also known as IS* or ISIS*. The group appeared at the end of the 20th century, but reached its peak in 2014, when it proclaimed its controlled areas as a “caliphate”.

In recent years, IS * has been in decline, losing control over a huge part of the territories thanks to the actions of many states.

But experts admit that the organization responsible for many terrorist attacks remains a threat to the world community.

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, authorities, civil society organizations and experts have warned that groups such as IS*, the terrorist organization Boko Haram* operating in Nigeria* and al-Qaeda* will try to use the pandemic to discredit governments, rally supporters and increase attacks.

So, in April 2020, ISIS* and Al-Qaeda* proclaimed Covid-19 a “warrior of Allah”, saying that the coronavirus “punishes the West for the oppression of Muslims.” However, apparently, the isolation measures, on the contrary, prevented the terrorists.

“While the impact of violence by such non-state actors on public health is well known, the impact of public health crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic on violence by non-state actors has not been established.

We argue that quarantine measures introduced to control the spread of disease can reduce the level of violence by terrorist organizations.

These measures deplete terrorist resources, reduce the number of valuable civilian targets, and make attacks more difficult from a logistical point of view,” the scientists said.

To analyze the impact of quarantine measures on terrorist activity in Iraq, Syria and Egypt, the authors of the work applied an integrated approach.

First, they statistically studied the association of curfews and travel bans with the number of ISIS* attacks in these countries.

The scientists then mapped the number and location of IS* attacks in Iraqi governorates and beyond using a geographic information system, and studied interviews with government officials, military leaders, political experts and local residents.

In total, the researchers analyzed data from more than 1,500 cases of violence initiated by ISIS * in Iraq, Syria and Egypt.

The information was collected by the participants of the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) for 78 weeks – from June 31, 2018 to June 28, 2020. In March 2020, the above countries introduced curfews and travel bans for three to four months.

“Despite fears that the pandemic will increase violence from non-state actors such as ISIS*, our analysis showed that the anti-COVID measures used to combat the pandemic reduced the number of ISIS* attacks during the period studied, especially in more populated areas and areas outside the bases of the IG *, ”the authors of the work said.

In particular, the number of cases of violence during the curfew in Iraq was about 30% lower, and in Syria – 15%.

The more populated a particular province, the more effectively the lockdown reduced the activity of terrorists. For example, the number of violent actions initiated by the Islamic State* in the governorate of Baghdad, with a population of 8.1 million, was 11% lower when the curfew was in effect.

However, no change has occurred in Najaf (the center of Muslim pilgrimage, second only to Mecca and Medina), where one and a half million people live.

Analyzing interviews with officials, military leaders, experts and residents, the scientists concluded that the anti-COVID measures reduced the number of important civilian targets and made it difficult for militants to move.

While there is evidence that the restrictions sapped the group’s financial resources for example, by limiting its ability to collect money from local residents or run its commercial business the terrorists’ cash reserves (estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars) likely allowed them to continue sponsoring cells.

“Most terrorist groups lack the financial resources that IS has, so they tend to target civilians more and operate in urban areas.

That is, they will be more vulnerable to the consequences of quarantine measures than IS*.

But this does not mean that such restrictions are a magic tool in the fight against insurgents, because these measures have serious side effects on society, especially in developing countries where militant groups operate, ”the scientists concluded.


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