A new study indicates that ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), although never averse to killing since the organization’s inception in 2002, really ramped up its violence in 2014, the same year the extremists took over large sections of eastern Syria and northwestern Iraq and declared its newly conquered territory a caliphate. In fact, the study shows that ISIS is responsible for the deaths of 33,000 people since 2002. Of that number, over 80 percent have died since 2014.
KOMO in Seattle reported this week that a study out of the University of Maryland concluded that ISIS (in all its varied forms over the last decade or so) and its affiliates were responsible for the deaths of at least 33,000 people over a 14-year period stretching from 2002 to 2015. The numbers revealed that the fledgling ISIS accounted for roughly 500 deaths on average up through 2013. But it was in 2014, when ISIS made its most successful military moves and took over a lot of territory in both Syria and Iraq, that saw the terrorist organization become an actual player on the world scene by declaring itself autonomous, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
The study showed that between 2002 and 2015, ISIS perpetrated a total of nearly 5,000 attacks worldwide, resulting in the deaths of 33,000 people. The Islamic extremists accounted for 26 percent of all terrorist killings within that time frame. But what is more striking is that to achieve that percentage, roughly 27,000 died in 2014 and 2015 (almost 82 percent of the total death count).
Study author and program manager of the Global Terrorism Database, Erin Miller, says that ISIS has been the driving force behind global terrorism.
“They [ISIS] have been a major driver of trends that we see in terrorist attacks worldwide.”
The study, which was partially funded by the U.S. Homeland Security Department and published at E-International Relations, tracked the growth of the terrorist organization from its start as a faction of al-Qaeda to its growth into a separate group, spurred primarily by the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and the subsequent dissolution of the Iraqi Army and other Ba’athist state entities (Saddam Hussein’s ruling political party) in May. Many of the military personnel and government officials, finding themselves without careers and/or prospects within the new U.S.-supported Iraqi government, joined ISIS in the following years as the terrorist group underwent several name and organizational changes.
The ISIS study noted that in 2014, a year when the average number of deaths soared from 500 a year to 3,000 in just a matter of months, the extremists had enjoyed an uptick in popularity worldwide for roughly two years, prompted mostly by the group’s modern approach to public relations and recruitment — namely, its masterful use of social media platforms and video outlets. In addition to the 33,000 killed by ISIS, the extremists also wounded another 41,000 and took 11,000 captives. The study also showed that ISIS-related attacks occurred in just four countries in 2013, but by 2015, ISIS-related attacks had been carried out in 33 nations, including the U.S.
Heritage terrorism (the terroristic acts of destroying culturally significant icons, traditions, institutions, etc.) expert Jim Phillips believes (per KOMO) the study is proof that ISIS is now the dominant terrorist organization.
“I think its evidence of how ISIS has eclipsed al Qaeda… and in many respects, its al Qaeda on steroids and has become the leading terrorist group in the world.”
ISIS had been fighting primarily in Syria until 2014 when the extremists went on the offensive in Iraq. Managing to take over a considerable amount of territory, including Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, the terrorists declared in June of that year that it was now the Islamic State, the government of the worldwide caliphate. Since then, ISIS’ list of atrocities has been well documented. From the genocidal acts against the Yazidis and the acquiring of women as captives and sex slaves to the harsh interpretation of Sharia law when dealing with civilians, ISIS has grown from a relatively unknown terrorist group into a feared terrorist player on the global stage.
In recent months, as ISIS has reeled under setbacks in both Syria and Iraq, the group’s message for its members and followers appears to have changed. Possibly sensing the demise of the Middle Eastern caliphate state in Iraq and Syria, ISIS’ message has switched from open recruitment to join and fight in the Middle East to exhorting members and potential recruits to do their parts and fight ISIS’ enemies in their home countries.
The ISIS study is geared to aid the Department of Homeland Security and other international agencies in producing methods of dealing with ISIS in the future.
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