In adopting its resolution 2253 (2015), the Security Council expressed its determination to address the threat posed to international peace and security by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as Da’esh)1 and associated individuals and groups, and emphasized the importance of cutting off its access to funds and preventing it from planning and facilitating attacks. In paragraph 97 of the resolution, the Council requested that I provide an initial strategic-level report, followed by updates every four months thereafter.
The present report is the fourth such report (see S/2016/92, S/2016/501 and S/2016/830) and was prepared with the input of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, in close collaboration with the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team pursuant to Security Council resolution 1526 (2014) and 2253 (2015) concerning Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) (Da’esh),
Al-Qaida and the Taliban and associated individuals and entities of the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolutions 1267 (1999), 1989 (2011) and 2253 (2015) concerning Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Da’esh), Al-Qaida and associated individuals, groups, undertakings and entities, the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force, the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Centre and other relevant United Nations actors and international and regional organizations. In addition to providing an update on the gravity of the threat posed by ISIL and associated groups and entities, I also consider the presence and influence of ISIL outside Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic, including in Europe, the Maghreb2 and West Africa. Also addressed are the efforts of Member States of those regions to implement measures in a number of thematic areas, including in order to counter the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters who either return to their home States or travel to other States, as well as the efforts of the United Nations, its partners and international and regional organizations to support the undertakings of Member States
II. Overview of the current threat
A. Emphasis by ISIL on external attacks
- ISIL is militarily on the defensive in several regions, notably in Afghanistan,
Iraq, Libya and the Syrian Arab Republic. According to reports from Member States, the group has not been able to withstand the sustained pressure within several conflict zones,3 however, ISIL is partially adapting to this situation. For example, Member States highlighted that the internal communication and recruitment methods of the group are increasingly moving towards more covert methods, such as the use of the dark web, encryption and messengers. Furthermore, attacks perpetrated by ISIL in the Levant demonstrate the group’s operational capabilities to expand its immediate areas of attack to neighbouring countries b y using links to existing local cells. The group continues to encourage its followers and sympathizers outside conflict zones to perpetrate attacks. In several cases, Member States highlighted that foreign terrorist fighters with the core of ISIL reached out to specific individuals in their countries of origin to encourage attacks. The threat to the aviation sector remains high, as demonstrated by recent attacks against airports in Brussels in March and in Istanbul, Turkey, in June, and against a Daallo Airlines flight in February 2016. Recognizing the seriousness of this particular threat, the Security Council adopted resolution 2309 (2016) in September, emphasizing international efforts to counter the threat to aviation.
B. Foreign terrorist fighters and returnees
- Member States emphasized that the flow of foreign terrorist fighters to Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic has slowed considerably due to increased control measures of Member States and the diminished “attractiveness” of the core of ISIL as a result of military pressure. One Member State reported that it anticipates that many foreign terrorist fighters will remain in Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic, given that most of them who intended to leave had already done so. Several Member States assessed that those who remain in the conflict zone will present a significant threat if they eventually return, given that most are staunchly committed to ISIL ideology. Some Member States neighbouring Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic, as well as in the Maghreb, highlighted that they are currently dealing with returnees from the Syrian Arab Republic and Iraq travelling through their territory and the significant number of foreign terrorist fighters who were stopped en route to the Syrian Arab Republic. Some of those returnees will travel to their countries of origin or residence. Others may choose to travel to conflict zones in the region and beyond, thereby posing new risks. Therefore, the flow of returnee s entails the risk of spreading the threat posed by individuals loyal to ISIL to new regions.