Sun | Aug 20, 2017

UN chief: IS on defensive in conflict areas but is adapting

Published:Tuesday | February 7, 2017 | 2:00 AM
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

UN: IS on defensive in

conflict areas but adapting

UNITED NATIONS (AP):

The Islamic State extremist group is militarily on the defensive in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria but is partially adapting by moving to covert communications and recruitment and expanding its areas of attack away from conflict areas, United Nations (UN) Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in a new report.

The threat of attacks on airports and aircraft "remains high", he said. The militant group, also known as IS and ISIL, continues to encourage its supporters outside conflict zones to perpetrate attacks "using links to existing local cells," he added.

The report to the UN Security Council, which was circulated yesterday, said member states highlighted that internal communications and recruitment by IS "are increasingly moving towards more covert methods, such as the use of the dark web, encryption and messengers".

MAJOR IMPACT

Nonetheless, Guterres said, the military campaigns against IS are having a major impact. IS has lost "large numbers of fighters and territory", which "together with the group's deteriorating financial situation have considerably reduced its draw for foreign terrorist fighters", he said.

Guterres said UN member states emphasised that the flow of would-be foreign fighters to Iraq and Syria has also "slowed considerably" due to increased controls put in place by various governments. Recruitment is down as well and IS fighters are increasingly leaving the battlefield, he said.

As for finances, the militant group is now operating on a "crisis" budget, Guterres said, but its revenue streams remain the same - oil and gas, extortion and "taxation," which together account for up to 80 percent of its income. The UN Mission in Iraq estimates that IS earned approximately US$260 million from oil sales last year, mainly from oil fields in Syria's Deir el-Zour province, Guterres said. That is about half the 2015 estimate of up to US$500 million, he said.