Why is Islamic State a bigger threat than al-Qaeda

November 14, 2015 02:02 pm | Updated December 04, 2021 11:04 pm IST

With its global appeal, low-cost, high-impact tactics and swelling ranks, the Islamic State is turning out be the deadliest terrorist organisation of modern times, outranking groups such as Al-Qaeda. T >he Friday evening attacks in Paris , the earlier incidents in France, and the lone wolf attacks taking place in various countries, including Bangladesh, are warnings to India to be on alert to a wave of possible attacks in the coming days.

While Indian agencies are ruling out any immediate threat, it is clear a new version of the IS style of attacks, very low cost, but high impact, is a high possibility in the country. And it also means the political establishment needs to wake up to the possibility of local grievances finding global echo and refuge in IS propaganda. In the new political environment dominated by divisive and regressive discussions, fringe elements are already flourishing.

The Paris attacks took less than a dozen armed men and some weapons and required much less planning than even the Mumbai attacks of 2008. The terrorists, in all probability, did not all come on a boat from a foreign country and no GPS was required to guide them through familiar neighbourhoods.

The growing scale of IS attacks and the appeal of its twisted ideology are reasons enough to believe that the group could end up being the deadliest terrorist organisation in modern history. Its brutality and scale of attacks could soon eclipse those of Al-Qaeda, of which it was once a mere splinter group in Iraq.

IS is not chasing grand attacks the way Al Qaeda did and is focussed on the immediate — to establish a caliphate, to take on enemies such as Shias and other minorities. However, its ability to attract so many followers in many countries means it is now a violent global ideology, though it may not be a cohesive global network.

IS is a different animal

The latest attacks in Paris, as well as the recent incidents in Bangladesh, are showcasing the numbing growth of the Islamic State, not as a secret terrorist organisation hidden in some remote corner as Al-Qaeda but as a twisted caliphate with broad territory, aggressive communication strategies and tens of thousands of followers and sympathisers across the world, especially in the English-speaking West.

While Al Qaeda may have scripted the most stunning terror attack in modern times, with 9/11 in the U.S., in the long term, it turned out to be an abstract terrorist organisation bent upon targeting western interests alone.

Osama Bin Laden and his key aides never looked at establishing a caliphate as a key step towards spreading the violent ideology.

In contrast, the IS is saying, and has already shown, that it was about establishing a caliphate, a geographically defined state, here and now.

Its control of a large geographical area in Iraq and Syria, and slick social media communication, has resulted in a massive global appeal.

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