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U.N.: Up to 30,000 Islamic State members remain in Iraq, Syria

By
Daniel Uria
Flags flown by the Islamic State. A United Nation report stated a core of between 20,000 and 30,000 IS members remains intact and equally distributed between Iraq and Syria. Photo by Steve Allen/Shutterstock
Flags flown by the Islamic State. A United Nation report stated a core of between 20,000 and 30,000 IS members remains intact and equally distributed between Iraq and Syria. Photo by Steve Allen/Shutterstock

Aug. 14 (UPI) -- As many as 30,000 members of the Islamic State terrorist group remain in Iraq and Syria, a U.N. report indicates.

The report released Monday states that a core of between 20,000 and 30,000 IS members, including leadership and other branches, remains intact and distributed roughly equally between the two countries.

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"Among these is still a significant component of the many thousands of active foreign terrorist fighters," the report said.

U.N. experts said the group -- also identified as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh -- rallied in the early parts of 2018 after being militarily defeated in Iraq and most of Syria the year prior and will continue to survive as a "covert network" in both countries with supporters spread throughout Libya, Southeast Asia and West Africa.

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The group's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, remains in authority despite reports he had been injured, but has been forced to delegate responsibility due to the wider network of members and supporters outside the conflict area.

The immigration and logistics coordination office, though intact, has struggled with communication and its chief has been killed. The general security and finance bureaus also are still operational.

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Experts also said al-Qaida's affiliates and allies are "much stronger" than IS' in places such as Somalia, Yemen, South Asia and the Sahel.

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Al-Qaida leaders in Iran have particularly become more prominent by working with the group's primary leader, Aiman al-Zawahiri, who has been "projecting his authority more effectively than he could previously."

The flow of foreign terrorist fighters toward IS in Syria and Iraq has "essentially come to a halt" but the outward flow into other areas has remained a challenge for some areas, despite occurring at a slower rate than expected.

Some European states have reported a declining rate of terror attacks beginning in 2018, as a possible result of the near military defeat of IS.

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"Command and control was damaged; the planned mergers of some bureaucratic units were not accomplished without disruption; and many of the most active terror-planners and operatives were killed in targeted strikes," the report stated.

The report said other countries have reported "the underlying drivers of terrorism are all present and perhaps more acute than ever before" and the drop in terrorism rates could be temporary.

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