The Islamic State (ISIS) is expanding worldwide in an ominous trend that security officials fear could extend far beyond the Middle East into Africa, Europe and Asia.
Officials warn that the recent announcement that the Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram has, in effect, voluntarily become a subsidiary of ISIS is only one of many indications of the Islamic State's global caliphate intentions, The Daily Beast reports
"The ultimate goal of ISIS may be to provoke destabilization in Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria, and eventually hook up via the Sahel with Boko Haram and other jihadist groups, creating a wide arc of instability spanning the Atlantic, Mediterranean and Red Seas," Balkanalysis reports
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Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told the House Armed Services Committee: "With affiliates in Algeria, Egypt, Libya, the group is beginning to assemble a growing international footprint that includes ungoverned and under-governed areas," Fox News reported
Through affiliations with terrorist groups, the infiltration of undercover operatives into countries where ISIS influence is not overt, and contact with "lone wolf" sympathizers, ISIS already has expanded into countries well beyond its home bases of Iraq and Syria.
Fox News notes that ISIS has been connected to the Jundallah militant group and the Tehreek-e-Khilafat groups in Pakistan, the Philippines' Abu Sayyaf group, Sinai Province in Egypt, Lebanon's The Free Sunnis of Baalbek Brigade, Indonesia's Jama'ah Ansharut Tauhid, and Sons of the Call for Tawhid and Jihad in Jordan.
The Daily Beast notes that ISIS has forged connections with the Islamic Youth Shura Council in Libya, which has announced its allegiance to ISIS.
J. Peter Pham, director of the Africa Center at the Washington-based Atlantic Council, told The Daily Beast: "Rather than trying to expand (like al-Qaida) from the center, the Islamic State is mushrooming all over the place. They may not be conducting tactical command day-to-day, but they're certainly going to have tighter command on messaging and strategy."
An indication of ISIS' influence can be seen in groups such as Boko Haram changing their media tactics. Sophisticated ISIS-style videos of attacks and atrocities are adopted, social media presence is upgraded and, like ISIS, groups start taking and holding territory as part of the global Islamic caliphate that ISIS has promised.
Boko Haram has created a new media channel, The Indissoluble Link, aping ISIS' al Furquan channel, The Daily Beast reports, filled with propaganda and videos, and a new Boko Haram Twitter account. While English is the official language of Nigeria, much of the website content is in Arabic, yet another indication of ISIS influence.
"There is a convergence of rhetoric, ideology, tactical and operational choices," Pham told The Daily Beast.
With Boko Haram's pledge of allegiance to ISIS, "Nigeria could become the key state of its western Africa Islamic State caliphate," The Daily Beast notes.
James Phillips, Middle East senior research fellow with the Heritage Foundation, told Fox News: "There are an unknown number of self-radicalized militants in many different countries that may self-identify with ISIS and carry out 'lone wolf' terrorist attacks in its name, without necessarily being members of the group."
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