With its dream of a Caliphate in the Middle East now dead, ISIS has just 12 months later launched another reign of terror with hit-and-run attacks aimed at undermining the government in Baghdad. In December last year Iraq announced that it had crushed military ISIS forces. But in Europe, home-grown jihadists who have never visited conflict zones are carrying out devastating lone wolf attacks, which experts warn are hard to prevent.
So much so there has been a spike in recent years in ISIS-inspired attacks by “lone wolves” using little more weaponry than a knife or car.
Most have been less deadly than strikes by former fighters, but they are harder for police to stop.
In 2016, Anis Amri, from Tunisia, killed 86 people by driving a truck into a crowd in the French city of Nice.
Manuel Navarrete, head of Europol’s Counter Terrorism Centre, said: “You have to be very, very close to a person in order to take action on the police level to prevent this.
“And the closest you can be to a person right now is not going to the front door, it is going to Facebook, to Twitter.”
The number of attacks and foiled plots in Europe more than doubled last year to 205, killing 62 people, Europol’s annual report showed.
Of more than 5,000 Europeans – mostly from Britain, France, Germany and Belgium – who joined the ranks of fighters in Syria and Iraq, some 1,500 have returned and 1,000 were killed, according to the EU intelligence-sharing body.
Mr Navarrete added: “Even though we suffer more attacks, they were less sophisticated.”
Intelligence officials say ISIS was secretly preparing itself for the defeat by Iraqi forces months before by adopting guerrilla tactics when it could no longer hold territory.
As a result Iraq has now seen an increase in kidnappings and killings, mainl in the provinces of Kirkuk, Diyala, and Salahuddin, since it held an election in May, indicating the government will come under renewed pressure from the terrorists that once occupied a third of the country during a three-year reign of terror.
In June, Iraq saw at least 83 cases of kidnap, murder or both in the three provinces.
Most took place on a highway connecting Baghdad to Kirkuk province.
In May, the number of such incidents in that area was 30, while in March it was seven, according to Hisham al-Hashimi, an expert on Islamic State who advises the Iraqi government.
In one incident on June 17, three Shi’ite men were kidnapped by ISIS militants disguised as policemen at a checkpoint on the highway.
Ten days later their mutilated corpses were discovered, rigged with explosives to kill anyone who found them.
Military and intelligence officials have warned they now face an “intelligence war” instead of a “military war” on the streets of Iraq.
Hisham al-Hashimi, an ISIS expert who advises the Iraqi government, revealed about 1,000 I SIS fighters remain active in Iraq,with around 500 in desert areas and the rest in the mountains.
Yahya Rasool, spokesperson for Iraqi army’s Joint Operations Command, added: “Our war on ISIS today is an intelligence war, not a military war.
“We are searching and raiding their hide-outs.”