In Brief

Is Islamic State bouncing back in Iraq?

Kurdish official says the group is now ‘like al-Qa’eda on steroids’

Islamic State is re-organising in Iraq, says the BBC, two years after losing the last of its territory in the country.

Kurdish and Western intelligence officials say that the IS fighters are “getting stronger again” and Isis attacks are increasing.

Lahur Talabany, a leading Kurdish counter-terrorism official, described the group as “like al-Qa’eda on steroids”. 

He added: “They have better techniques, better tactics and a lot more money at their disposal. They are able to buy vehicles, weapons, food supplies and equipment. Technologically they're more savvy. It's more difficult to flush them out.”

Talabany, who fled to London from the regime of Saddam Hussein, said: “We see the activities are increasing now, and we think the rebuilding phase is over.”

He adds that they are based in mountains and have a new modus operandi. He says the group no longer wants to control any territory to avoid being a target. Instead the fighters have gone underground, in Iraq’s Hamrin Mountains.

“This is the hub for Isis [Islamic State group] right now,” said Talabany. “It's a long range of mountains, and very difficult for the Iraqi army to control. There are a lot of hide-outs and caves.”

He says that unrest in the Iraqi capital is “Heaven or Christmas come early for Isis” as it exploits a sense of alienation among Sunni Muslims.

At its peak, in 2014-15, IS controlled around half the territory of both Syria and Iraq and ruled over as many as eight million people. However, earlier this year, The Observer reported that what remains of the caliphate declared by its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, “amounts to one or two besieged villages in southeastern Syria”.

There have been previous premature declarations of victory over the group. Military leaders in Syria, Iraq and Russia claimed a decisive victory over Islamic State last year, but western officials said the declaration is premature and analysts warned that further insurgencies are likely.

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