In Brief

Taliban overtakes Isis as world’s deadliest terror group

New research reveals near doubling of Taliban attacks in single year

The Taliban has overtaken Islamic State as the world’s most deadly terrorist group, a defence intelligence agency is claiming.

A new report from the London-based Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre (Jtic) says the number of Taliban attacks recorded in 2019 rose by 87.6% year-on-year and resulted in 4,617 “non-militant” fatalities - up from 2,980 in 2018. 

By contrast, attacks by Isis declined by 18.4%, following a “substantial downturn in activity in Iraq and Syria”. And the number of non-militant deaths from Isis attacks fell to 2,381 - down by about 25% from 3,151 the previous year.

However, the report warns that Isis continues to pose a “significant threat” in West Africa and the Sahel - the stretch of semi-arid land south of the Sahara Desert from Mauritania and Senegal in the west to Sudan and Eritrea in the east. 

Matthew Henman, head of Jtic, said: “While Islamic State activity in Iraq and Syria was largely reduced to a steady tempo of insurgent-style violence, in Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and Burkina Faso in particular, the group continued to perpetrate mass-casualty violence.”

The publication of the data comes as the US begins its withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The Times says the findings will be an “embarrassment” to the Donald Trump administration, “which has already come under criticism over its peace deal with the Taliban”.

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Frank McKenzie, head of US forces in the Middle East, told a congressional committee on Monday that he had no confidence the Taliban would meet their commitments under the agreement. 

“Nevertheless, the Pentagon announced that the first stage of the withdrawal was under way,” the newspaper continues. 

The UK is also set to withdraw 330 of its 1,100 regular personnel stationed in Afghanistan.

Isis traces its roots back to 2004 and Jordanian jihadist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who pledged allegiance to Osama Bin Laden and formed al-Qa’eda in Iraq (Aqi).

Following Zarqawi’s death, in 2006, Aqi created an umbrella organisation, Islamic State in Iraq (Isi), an umbrella group that later merged with jihadist forces in Syria to become Islamic State in Iraq and Syria Levant (Isis).

Meanwhile, the Taliban “emerged in the early 1990s in northern Pakistan following the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan”, according to the BBC.

By 1998, the hard-line Islamist movement were in control of almost 90% of Afghanistan.

The Taliban were removed from power by a US-led invasion in 2001, but “has gradually regained its strength and now controls and influences more territory than at any point since that time”, the broadcaster says.

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