ISIS Threat Continues
Terrorist Group Still Controls Large Territory and Thousands of Captives
Over the last year, the Islamic State (ISIS) has been dealt severe blows in Syria and Iraq, which have greatly reduced the terrorist group’s control over the region. Following an assault by U.S.-backed Iraqi and Kurdish forces, ISIS militants were forced into the remote border regions between Syria and Iraq. Yet, despite severe setbacks, ISIS militants have begun reestablishing their presence in the region.
“Although the U.S.-led coalition brought an end to ISIS strongholds in Raqqa and Mosul, many fighters managed to escape into the mountains and deserts of Syria, mainly Hasaka province, Deir Zour province, parts of Hama and Daraa province where they remain in hiding today,” said Rudy Atallah, COO of The Nazarene Fund.
Following the U.S.-led attacks, thousands of ISIS fighters and their family members were also allowed safe passage to Idlib, Syria: a stronghold for Salafi* organizations like Hay’at Tagrir al Sham, which was recently designated as a terror organization by the U.S. State Department.
Over the past two months, small groups of Islamic State militants based in these areas have launched a wave of kidnappings, bombings, and assassinations that have reached into central Iraq. Dozens of people, particularly local leaders, have been abducted and ransom demanded for their return. Infrastructure such as oil pipelines, electric transmission lines, and highways have been damaged in the attacks. Militants have established fake checkpoints to hijack trucks and rob travelers.
The ISIS threat was demonstrated last week during the organization’s “Black Wednesday” attack in Sweida, Syria. The attack killed hundreds and hostage were taken including a pregnant Christian mother and her four children. It has been reported to The Nazarene Fund that the mother has given birth to her fifth child while in captivity.
There has been a small resurgence of ISIS fighters in Iraq as well, where the group has succeeded in disrupting travel on the Baghdad-Kirkuk road, unnerving residents of a region in which memories of the group’s atrocities are still fresh.
“While the U.S. campaign to undermine and remove the Iranian regime — a main enemy to Sunni radical groups — is working, this is having a cumulative effect on the resurgence of ISIS across the region,” Atallah explained.
This has been the case in Afghanistan, where the ISIS-Khorasan Province (ISIS-KP) has been launching new attacks across the country, including several suicide bombings this year. Additionally, ISIS fighters in Afghanistan have begun clashing with members of the Taliban, who continue to try to regain territory lost to U.S.-backed forces.
The renewed violence has greatly complicated efforts to bring aid to the millions of people who have been displaced due to the conflict. More than 3,000 Yazidis are still missing and an unknown number of victims remain in the hands of Islamic State fighters. Additionally, tens of thousands of refugees remain in camps near the frontlines. If the Islamic State is successful in making a comeback, these people are in grave danger.
One terrible testament of ISIS cruelty is the group’s extensive slave trade. Thousands of people — primarily women and children — that were captured when ISIS was in power continue to be held by the terror group. The slave market is a source of revenue for ISIS, as captives are sold into servitude. Children are used as soldiers and women are traded for sex. ISIS and its former members are also currently engaged in the international organ harvesting and trafficking market from the areas it still controls or where there is limited legal authority.
The Nazarene Fund remains on the frontlines, dedicated to helping forgotten minorities, like Yazidis and Christians, find hope. Working closely with countries like Australia, Canada, and Austria, The Nazarene Fund is finding new homes for those who have been persecuted by ISIS. This year alone, the organization is working to move more than 7,000 displaced people from the frontlines in the Middle East to new homes in Australia. In these dangerous areas, The Nazarene Fund is the only organization providing this type of support. However, there is more work to be done — many remain in danger including 6,900 Yazidis waiting for our immediate support.
“ISIS has become very entrepreneurial,” said Atallah. “The Nazarene Fund has been gathering intelligence on and sponsoring efforts to stop this barbaric chapter of the terrorist group’s existence. We are committed to remain until the threat is eradicated, but we need support to make it possible.”
The Nazarene Fund needs you help. To donate or to learn more go to www.thenazarenefund.org.
*Salafism: a strict, orthodox branch of Sunni Muslim that advocates for a return to the early Islam of the Quran and Sunna
Listen to the radio interview here: https://wallbuilderslive.com/saving-lives-rudy-atallah/