World leaders warn of lurking danger of ISIS despite Baghdadi's death
29 October 2019
World leaders and security officials on Monday greeted the news of ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s death but said the campaign against Islamic State was not over, as the ISIS has proved resilient despite several setbacks.
This is because the Islamic State has established bases in Southeast Asia, an important focus for the terror group. Officials and security forces in South and Southeast Asia are preparing for a long battle to thwart the group’s ideology.
The Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia, home to some of Asia’s most organised Islamist militants, and they have radicalised loyalists in countries like Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka who are bracing themselves for retaliation, including “lone wolf” attacks.
Though Baghdadi’s death will unsettle Islamic State, it remains capable and dangerous, said Delfin Lorenzana, defence secretary of the Philippines, where the group’s influence has taken a hold in its troubled Mindanao region.
French President Emmanuel Macron said Baghdadi’s death was a major blow to Islamic State but “the fight continues to finally defeat this terrorist organisation”.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “We will work with our coalition partners to bring an end to the murderous, barbaric activities of Daesh (Islamic State) once and for all.”
Russia, which US President said has helped the US in the pursuit of the terrorist, however, offered guarded praise after President Donald Trump announced that US forces had killed Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to say if the United States had told Russia about the operation in advance.
But he added: “If this information is confirmed we can talk about a serious contribution by the president of the United States to the fight against international terrorism.”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters: “This is a many-headed monster ... As you cut one off, another one inevitably arises.”
“This is a blow to the organisation considering al-Baghdadi’s stature as a leader. But this is just a momentary setback considering the depth and reach of the organisation worldwide,” Lorenzana said. “Somebody will take his place.”
Although Islamic State has not declared a successor to Baghdadi, the group has the capacity to spring back and inspire attacks in the region and beyond despite losing hold of its territory.
The raid on Baghdadi comes weeks after Trump announced the withdrawal of US troops from northeastern Syria, which permitted Turkey to attack America’s Kurdish allies as it sought to set up a “safe zone”.
Critics also expressed concern at the abandoning of the Kurdish fighters who were instrumental in defeating Islamic State in Syria, and that the move might allow the group to regain strength and pose a threat to US interests.
Trump said the raid would not change his decision to withdraw troops from Syria.
US expects the killing of Baghdadi could help blunt those concerns, as well as give a boost to Trump’s image domestically at a time when he is facing an impeachment inquiry in the US House of Representatives.
Regional allies welcomed the operation, with Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan saying it marked “a turning point in our joint fight against terrorism”.
Turkey’s military was in intense coordination with US counterparts on the night of the raid, a presidential spokesman said.
Baghdadi had long been sought by the United States - which offered a $25 million reward - as leader of a jihadist group that at one point controlled large areas of Syria and Iraq, where it declared a caliphate.
At the height of its power, Islamic State ruled over millions of people from northern Syria to the outskirts of Baghdad. The group also killed thousands of civilians as it mounted a genocidal campaign against Iraq’s Yazidi minority. It also caused worldwide revulsion by beheading foreign nationals from countries, including the United States, Britain and Japan.
The group has claimed responsibility for or inspired attacks in cities including Paris, Nice, Orlando, Manchester, London and Berlin, and in Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.