As the world battles the spread of COVID-19 pandemic, terrorist organizations are seeking to use the crisis to their advantage. Terror groups are urging their operatives to capitalize on the situation by launching attacks as governments and militaries are busy dealing with the outbreak.
While it may be early to arrive at any concrete conclusion, a recent increase in spate of terror attacks in Africa and Afghanistan point toward concerted efforts by terrorist leaders who are appealing to their followers on the pretext that coronavirus has been sent by God to help them wage jihad against their enemies.
“Jihadis see the current crisis as a manifestation of the wrath of God, both upon the non-believers for their rejection of God’s law and crimes against Muslims, and upon those Muslims who have forsaken the duty of jihad. They argue that fighting jihad is the surest way to guarantee protection from the virus,” Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens, director of research at The George Washington University’s Program on Extremism told the Washington Times recently.
Another defence analyst, Bill Roggio, who works with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said that other extremist groups like the Taliban and Al Qaeda have too found a unifying factor in coronavirus as they are preaching that Covid-19 is a punishment from Allah for the decadent Western style of life.
The terror outfits are of the firm belief that this an opportune period for them as an attack against the United States or India or other African and European nations would result in maximum damage as these countries have deployed their military and other resources in tackling the corona outbreak, added Meleagrou-Hitchens.
Attack on Indian interest in Afghanistan
Few days back EurAsian Times had reported that Al-Qaeda had shifted its focus to India especially in the Kashmir region. On Wednesday, the Islamic State had claimed responsibility of a terror attack on a Sikh Gurudwara in Kabul, Afghanistan killing as many as 28 worshippers.
Two days after the Kabul Gurdwara attack an explosion interrupted the funeral services for Afghanistan’s Sikh community. No one was hurt in the blast, the Afghan Interior Ministry said. The explosion went off Thursday near the gate of a crematorium in Kabul, as the terrified grievers struggled to continue with the funeral prayers and cremation.
Taliban on the Prowl in Afghanistan
As the United States military begins its withdrawal following the peace deal with the Taliban as the EurAsian Times extensively covered, the latter’s forces have stepped up their attacks on Afghan soil. On Saturday, Taliban forces seized the district headquarters of Yumgan in Afghanistan’s northeastern province of Badakhshan after heavy fighting, resulting in an undetermined number of casualties. Four villages in neighbouring Jurm district were also seized.
Africa Under Siege
“African nations Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Chad are already reeling from very active Islamist insurgent groups. Serious coronavirus outbreaks in these already weak economies with inept administration and limited counterterrorism capabilities and medical resources may force them to pull back from the fight against terrorist outfits and shift their focus and energies instead in combating a spiralling public health crisis,” Roggio said.
The Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram with affiliations to Al-Qaeda and ISIS claimed responsibility on Wednesday for an attack on Chad’s Military that killed nearly 100 security personnel.
A similar Boko Haram strike on Tuesday in Nigeria killed 47 Nigerian soldiers earlier in the week. Islamic State, meanwhile, claimed responsibility for an attack some 2,500 miles to the south, in Mozambique, targeting natural gas projects being developed there by the U.S. and French energy giants ExxonMobil and Total.
The Middle East remains a hot spot for terror activities as most of the countries are embroiled in a direct or proxy war with their neighbours and have been among the worst regions infected with the Covid-19 pandemic.
NATO announced weeks ago that it was temporarily suspending training for Iraqi security forces because of coronavirus. Britain and France have since reduced troop deployments to the nation, with Paris announcing Thursday all its troops in Iraq’s anti-ISIS coalition were being redeployed for the time being.
Rise in Extremism
The terror attacks are not just restricted to perennially war-induced Middle East countries or poor African Nations but are increasing world over. Indonesia’s anti-terrorism squad shot and killed one suspect and arrested two others in a raid on the main island of Java, seizing weapons and chemicals allegedly used for bomb-making.
The man fatally shot by police resisted arrest by wielding a long sword, said National Police spokesman Argo Yuwono. The suspects were linked to a banned militant organization responsible for recent attacks on police, a local affiliate of the Islamic State group known as the Jama’ah Anshorut Daulah, Yuwono said.
In Missouri United States, a man suspected of planning to attack a hospital treating coronavirus cases was killed after a shootout with the FBI. The confrontation happened as agents tried to arrest 36-year-old Timothy R Wilson who had been under surveillance for months in the city of Belton as part of a domestic terrorism investigation, the FBI said.
Officials said the man was motivated by racist and anti-government beliefs. Wilson had previously considered attacking a school with a large number of black students, a mosque and a synagogue, according to the FBI. There is also the increasing threat of extremist right-wing groups who are allegedly sending an infected member to minorities neighbourhoods.