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Desert concentration and terrorist center of the Islamic state

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2017 | World News

Since the terrorist group Islamic state has once taken the sleepy Al-Rakka in Syria, the city has become the terror center. From here, IS strategists planned attacks in Europe – with technologies like WhatsApp.

Until a few years ago, Al-Rakka was an unadorned city in the north of Syria, hardly anyone in the world knew. Foreigners rarely found their way into the region. What was she going to do in this deserts? The approximately 200,000 inhabitants lived from the water of the Euphrates and from agriculture.

Meanwhile, however, Al-Rakka has become famous all over the world: as a secret capital of the terrorist Islamic state (IS) in the civil war country Syria. But above all, the place from which the extremists are pushing global attacks. Six months ago, the IS had planned major attacks from there, said the US Special Representative for the anti-IS coalition, Brett McGurk.

  It is still unclear whether the attackers in Spain received their instructions from Syria as well as others before them. Najim Laachraoui, one of the assassins of Paris and Brussels, had previously been in contact with an IS leader named Abu Ahmed. Security authorities are assuming that he was then in Al-Rakka.

Instructions from Syria
According to the findings of the security authorities, almost all of the assassinations carried out so far in Germany go back to persons who had been coached up to the last by the cyberspace of "headhunters" of the IS. This also applies to the Christmas market assassin of Berlin. Anis Amri was therefore directed and accompanied by his mobile phone from Syria.

For the instructions of the back men to reach their recipients thousands of miles away, the extremists use news services that are accessible to every smartphone owner. The WhatsApp and Telegram applications, which provide users with secure encryption, are particularly popular.

Messages delete themselves
For the secret services world-wide, it is usually impossible to read. Even if they get the equipment of an extremist into their hands, they can go empty: With Telegram messages can be sent so that they delete themselves after a certain time.

In order to give sympathizers, the IS also uses online publications, which are accessible to all well-to-do Internet users. In November last year, the jihadists spread an article in their magazine "Rumiyah", explaining in detail how attackers can make an attack with vehicles, "one of the safest and easiest weapons," as it was said. IS-propaganda is not to be controlled like this because it is produced and distributed decentrally.

A "virtual caliphate"
The most important behind-men may be in Al-Rakka, but helpers around the world support them. Every jihadist now runs "his own little news portal," writes the journalist Abdel Bari Atwan in his book "Das Digitale Kalifat". Because of its military losses in Syria and Iraq, the IS spent the ideology of a virtual caliphate, according to security circles. Through the social networks, supporters are called upon not to travel to the war zones anymore, but to carry out attacks at home.

In addition, the extremists also use a classic method of terrorist groups to act as undetected as possible: the formation of secret cells. Abu Musab al-Suri, an influential leader of the Jihadists, devoted a chapter to this topic in one of his writings. He praised the "scale of terror and fear" that spread operations of cells, as the jihad expert Rüdiger Lohlker explained in his book "The Salafists".

The current constitutional protection report states that the greatest risk for a jihadistically motivated attack goes, among other things, from foreign-controlled micro groups – so-called hit teams.

"Fight for your life"
Since the beginning of an offensive of Syrian Kurdish troops on Al-Rakka, the extremists have lost more than half of the city. Experts are sure that the ability of the terrorist to abduct attacks has been significantly reduced. "If you are under pressure in Al-Rakka, then you are no longer there and plan attacks," said a general of the anti-IS coalition in late June. "Then you fight for your life."

However, parts of the IS leaders have already fled to other areas under the control of the extremists farther east. So there is also the danger of attacks. Guido-Steinberg, the terrorist expert of the Berlin Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP), is convinced that the IS has even made provision.

No quick end to terrorism
Assassinations have been planned since the end of 2013: "We have to fear that the old plans will be completed with a success without the IS still able to draw the threads from Al-Rakka."

Steinberg does not expect a rapid end to terrorism. The IS had a high "ideological attractiveness" and many young people under its spell, explained the Terrorexperte. "All of them will not be able to be recovered in the next few years, but you will not be able to control them either, there are too many, there are many more IS terrorists than Al-Qaeda supporters." From German security circles it is said that the IS is currently planning attacks in Europe and especially in Germany.

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