Daesh has 400 militants awaiting attack orders in Europe

Published March 24th, 2016 - 06:07 GMT
Military police patrol the Brussels Airport in Zaventem, eastern Brussels, November 18, 2015. (AFP/Belga/Dirk Waem)
Military police patrol the Brussels Airport in Zaventem, eastern Brussels, November 18, 2015. (AFP/Belga/Dirk Waem)

Daesh has a network of semiautonomous interlocking cells comprised of more than 400 militants trained and prepared to target European cities in waves of attacks, a number of intelligence officials say.

The cells like the ones that struck Brussels and Paris are under orders to carry out attacks as they see fit at the “right time, place and method” for maximum carnage, officials told The Associated Press.

The European and Iraqi intelligence officials and a French lawmaker familiar with Daesh networks made the warning on Wednesday, a day after attacks in the Belgian capital Brussels left at least 34 people dead and over 250 others wounded. Back in mid-November, at least 129 people were killed and 352 others injured in another such attack on at least six different venues in and around Paris.

Some camps in Syria, Iraq were described in the report as possible places where the network is designed and the attackers are trained "specifically for attacks against the West."

French Senator Nathalie Goulet, the co-head of a commission tracking Daesh networks, believes that given the reach of the cells, arresting the assailants or suspects involved in the attacks "doesn't change a thing."

"The reality is that if we knew exactly how many there were, it wouldn't be happening."

A European security official who spoke on condition of anonymity said that fighters in the said units are trained in battleground strategies, explosives, surveillance techniques, and counter surveillance. He noted, "The difference is that in 2014, some of these Daesh fighters were only being given a couple weeks of training... Now the strategy has changed. Special units have been set up. The training is longer. And the objective appears to no longer be killing as many people as possible but rather to have as many terror operations as possible, so the enemy is forced to spend more money or more in manpower. It's more about the rhythm of terror operations now."

Magnus Ranstorp, a Swedish security analyst, said, "I see the link to the environments either in France or in Belgium. Whether they're logistically linked ... they're probably part of the same batch of extremists that have come out of Syria."

"To pull off an attack of this sophistication, you need training, planning, materials and a landscape," said Shiraz Maher, a senior research fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization in London. "Even if they worked flat out, the attackers in Brussels would have needed at least four days," he said.

According to estimates, a range between 400 and 600 Daesh fighters are trained specifically for external attacks in European cities.

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