Nato is deploying 3,500 more troops amid fears that ten thousand ISIS fighters are poised for a fresh wave of terror. The incremental increase in troops come as ISIS fighters are reportedly on stand-by in northern Iraq, after using the pandemic to rebuild their forces, like reported by thesun.ie.
In response, defence ministers agreed to bolster a NATO training mission aimed at strengthening the country’s military. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday the increases would be “incremental”. “The size of our mission will increase from 500 personnel to around 4,000,” he said.
“Training activities will now include more Iraqi security institutions, and areas beyond Baghdad.”
Stoltenberg insisted that the mission was being carried out “at the request of the Iraqi government”. “It is carried out with full respect for Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” he said.
Meanwhile, “no final decision” had been made on the future of NATO’s Afghanistan mission, as new US President Joe Biden weighs pulling out troops. It comes as the RAF has also been called into action to strike at targets in Iraq.
ISIS once controlled a vast swath of territory across Iraq and Syria, seized in terrifying offensive in 2014, culminating in its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declaring an Islamic Caliphate in a Mosul mosque.
The bloodthirsty jihadis ruled with extreme brutality before a coalition of Kurdish forces backed by western airpower pushed them into their final pocket of territory in Baghouz, Syria in 2018.
But since their apparent defeat, they have been slowly rebuilding, despite the death of Baghdadi at the hands of US special forces.
Now Sirwan Barzani, a commander of the Kurdish Peshmerga forces stationed near the northern city of Erbil, told The Times the terrorists had taken advantage of a lull in operations against them.
They have emerged from hiding among civilians and reformed under a core leadership operating in the mountain regions of the autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq, he said.
Barzani, 50, said ISIS was still “a big threat for all of the world” and that the fighters “will keep pushing as they want to become more powerful”.
“When the liberation started for the whole area, they shaved their beards and posed as civilians, but they were waiting for the opportunity and slowly they went back to rejoin them,” he said.
“They reorganised themselves quicker because of the pandemic and because there were less coalition operations. That was something that was good for them but bad for us, of course.”
Meanwhile, a surge in killings at a huge refugee camp in Syria has sparked concerns that it is the “womb” for a new generation of extremists, Sky News reported.
Twenty deaths were reported last month in al Hawl, a camp housing more than 60,000 people in the north east of the country.
This was more than triple the deaths of recent months.
An Iraqi man who was beheaded accounted for one of the murders, a police officer shot with a silenced pistol was another.
Syrian Kurdish forces running the camp believed IS militants punishing enemies and intimidating those who strayed from their extremist line were largely responsible.
The brutal killings came as a warning that the thousands of children in al Hawl risked being radicalised if they stayed there.
The violence also brought with it a renewed call for repatriations to speed up, for the 10,000 foreign-born people living in the camp.
Last year it was revealed sleeper cells had regrouped under new leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Quraishi and were taking advantage of outbreaks of Covid-19 in the region.
ISIS was last year reported to have established control of territory in the desert around 15 miles from the centre of the town of Deir Ezzor – the first land it has held since the end of the Caliphate.
In January, a suspected ISIS suicide bombing killed at least 32 people in a Baghdad market.
The Ministry of Defence said two RAF Typhoons hit ISIS targets near the city of Bayji last week.
They are taking part in supporting Iraqi forces as part of Operation Shader, the UK contribution to the US-led international counter-ISIS operation.
The Peshmerga estimate there around 7000 ISIS fighters but the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT) puts the figure even higher.
UNOCT chief Vladimir Voronkov said that some 10,000 ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria are pursuing a protracted insurgency, posing “a major, long-term and global threat”.
“They are organized in small cells hiding in desert and rural areas and moving across the border between the two countries, waging attacks”, he said.
ISIS activities have been on the rise across the globe, from Africa to the Philippines.
At the end of last year, the jihadis beheaded more than 50 people and chopped up the bodies of the victims in a brutal attack in northern Mozambique, according to reports.
They also claimed Last year, ISIS claimed responsibility for the sickening bombings in Sri Lanka which killed 321 people on Easter Sunday.