Under-Secretary-General of the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism, Vladimir Voronkov said the terrorist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL) is expanding its affiliates and network beyond Syria and Iraq to Nigeria and other African countries.
The UN counter-terrorism chief told the Security Council on Wednesday that the epicenter of ISIL terrorist group – officially known as Da’esh – activities now appeared to be in the African continent.
The under-secretary-general said that the terrorist activities were gaining ground in Central and West Africa, which he said continues at an “unsettling” scale and pace.
According to him, the terrorist activities intensifying in Central and West Africa – especially Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali and Niger – and attacks are increasingly reported in the border area between Mozambique and Tanzania.
Pointing to potential spill-over effects that could reach even beyond the continent, he urged countries to use every tool at their disposal to sustain important gains made against the group.
Voronkov urged them to use every tool to sustain the gains made against the group, preventing its further regional expansion, curtailing its attack capabilities, and preventing additional recruitment.
“As we begin a new decade of counter-terrorism, it is time to ask ourselves difficult questions and search for honest answers,” he said.
According to him, the global fight against the shadowy, ever-morphing threat posed by the ISIL terrorist group and its affiliates, remains a “long-term game” for which there are “no quick fixes’’.
Voronkov said the threat from Da’esh was still very real in both Syria and Iraq, where the group retained an estimated 6,000-10,000 fighters and continued to carry out hit-and-run operations, ambushes, and roadside bombings.
He described a recent attempted jailbreak by Da’esh fighters in Syria’s Al-Hasakah city – which resulted in widespread clashes and a humanitarian crisis for the local population, including children – as a “shattering and sober reminder” of the network’s “extreme brutal violence”.
Following those events, a targeted attack reportedly by United States special forces resulted in the death of ISIL leader Abu Ibrahim Al-Hashimi Al-Quraishi, marking perhaps the most significant recent blow to the group’s leadership.
However, Voronkov warned that Da’esh is known for its ability to regroup and even intensify its activities following major defeats.
“We have learned over the past two decades that counter-terrorism is a long-term game and that there are no quick fixes,” he said, underlining the need for both military counter-terrorism operations and more comprehensive measures with a focus on prevention.
Against that backdrop, Voronkov called for renewed efforts to rebuild social trust and restore human dignity.
Such work should begin by addressing the desperate situation in displacement camps and detention facilities across Syria and Iraq, where thousands of people – especially children with presumed family links to ISIL members – remain stranded through no fault of their own.
Citing the risk of their further radicalization and recruitment, he welcomed efforts by those Member States that have repatriated foreign fighters and their family members.
However, the current pace of repatriation lacks sufficient urgency, and more efforts are needed to ensure the protection, rehabilitation, and reintegration of repatriated individuals.