No major increase in IS recruits from subcontinent: Expert
Interview with Amarnath Amarsingham, a Fellow of George Washington University’s Program on Extremism in the U.S. and an expert in Islamic State
With Islamic State claiming responsibility for the police academy attack in Pakistan’s Quetta on Monday, is IS firmly in position in the Indian subcontinent or Khorasan as it terms the region? In an interview to The Hindu, Islamic State expert, Amarnath Amarsingam, a Fellow of George Washington University’s Program on Extremism in the US, say that based on his conversations online with IS groups while the attacks in Quetta and earlier in Dhaka have links to IS, the group is trying increasingly to work with local groups rather than recruit for itself here.
The Islamic State has claimed credit for the attack on the police academy in Pakistan in which more than 60 were killed. How credible is their claim?
Fairly credible. What is more interesting is that both IS- Khorasan as well as LeJ-A claimed credit for the attack, and in my discussions with a spokesman for LeJ-A, I was told that LeJA has no intention of pledging allegiance to ISIS, but they will take help from any organization that wants to attack Pakistan forces. So, it seems that for this attack LeJA and IS-Khorasan worked together operationally. What this means for both groups going forward, we'll have to see.
Is the Modus Operandi in this attack close to that of IS anywhere else?
I think if we look at the attacks in Bangladesh and even the Paris attacks, they recognize that these kinds of Inghimasi (Fidayeen or suicide attack) attacks are quite powerful, because the fighters have no intention of coming back alive. Usually, the tactic is used by ISIS in Syria and Iraq, but we may indeed see a greater use of the tactic by operatives internationally. Decades ago, these used to be hostage takings, and negotiations would ensue over a large payment of money or some kind of political request, but the situation is different here.
Are there parallels to the IS attack at the Dhaka Café?
ISIS has been seeking to cultivate for attacks in South Asia or what it calls the Khorasan region. Its leader was a former member of the TTP, who was eventually droned by the United States. So, I think the difficulties that ISIS in Bangladesh faced will also be faced elsewhere. They are trying to set up shop and grow, but it may be much harder for them to do so today. This is mostly why we are seeing ISIS tap into already established jihadi groups like LeJA in Pakistan and JMB in Bangladesh. These local groups also benefit from the assistance and being tied to an international terrorist outfit.
How do you evaluate the impact of IS's territorial losses in the past few months? Is it driving IS recruiters to the Indian subcontinent?
IS-Khorasan was established in January 2015, so I think they always had an interest in the Indian subcontinent. But, with some losses in Syria and Iraq, I do think greater attention will be to foreign theatres, and they will seek to ally themselves with established groups that are already active in these areas, simply because it is operationally easy and they don't have to spend years setting up trusted networks.
You have been on various IS online groups….do you see an increased presence of IS recruits from the subcontinent (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan) ?
Based on what you are hearing, how much should India worry about an IS attack here- is there increased talk about the Kashmir issue being used by groups pushing IS propaganda?
ISIS propagandists are still very much focused on the caliphate in Syria and Iraq. I think for many everyday fighters, Kashmir is on their radar as another arena in which “Muslim rights are being trampled”. So, they talk about Kashmir, when they talk about Kashmir at all, as yet another example of Muslims being attacked. There doesn’t seem to be much knowledge of the history of the conflict or the local dynamics.