The leader of Islamist State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) is planning a fresh wave of terror attacks against Britain and other European countries in revenge for the crushing defeats the Islamist terror group has suffered in Iraq and Syria, a leading Iraqi intelligence official has warned.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of Isil’s self-proclaimed Caliphate in Iraq and Syria, is said to be organising a number of “sophisticated attacks” against Western targets to boost the morale of jihadi fighters after the series of defeats the movement has suffered in places like Mosul and Raqqa.
In an exclusive interview with the Telegraph, Lahur Talabany , the head of Kurdish intelligence who has been heavily involved in the military campaign to liberate Mosul from Isil control, says a new generation of Islamist terror groups could emerge in Iraq if the country does not undertake radical political reform.
“Isil has lost a lot of land in Iraq and Syria, but this is not the end of Isil,” said Mr Talabany, 41, during a visit to London, where he is having a series of meetings with officials and ministers, including Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon.
Mr Talabany said that there were an estimated 500 British jihadists fighting with Isil at the height of the so-called caliphate’s influence in Iraq and Syria, but that the majority of them had been killed during the US-led coalition’s military campaign to destroy Isil.
Iraq victory over Isil in Mosul, in pictures
As a result al-Baghdadi, who Mr Talabany says is still alive and probably hiding in the desert between the Syrian and Iraqi borders, is keen to launch a new wave of terrorist attacks against Britain and other Western countries to boost the morale of surviving Isil fighters.
“We are going to see a lot more attacks on the West that are designed to boost the morale of the fighters who have suffered heavy losses,” said Mr Talabany. “They are trying to do attacks that will get them publicity.
“The more sophisticated attacks are being organised by the leadership around the Baghdadi camp.”
Following the liberation of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city which was liberated from Isil control earlier in the summer, Iraqi security officials have been able to gain a better understanding of how Isil managed to seize control of the city and recruit so many foreign fighters to its cause.
“Isil played the media card very well,” said Mr Talabany. “They used the media to demoralise the government forces in both Iraq and Syria, but they were never as strong as they led the world to believe.
“They had lots of land, which they needed to attract foreign fighters. But now they don’t have the land to attract people to join them.” Consequently, Mr Talabany believes al-Baghdadi and other senior members of Isil’s leadership are seeking to launch fresh terror attacks to demonstrate the movement still has the ability to wage war against the West.
Mr Talabany said the Kurds and other Iraqi fighters were grateful for the military support they had received from the U.S., Britain and other coalition forces in the battle against Isil.
“We are very grateful for the help we have received from the coalition forces,” he said “Their backing meant it was too much for Isil to handle.”
But he warned that, as the military campaign against Isil began to wind down, it was important that countries like Britain continued to provide political support to the Iraqi government as it undertook the painful process of rebuilding the country after more than a decade of conflict.
In particular if was important the the Shia-dominated government of Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi reconciled the leaders of the Sunni tribes, many of whom have supported Isil because they do not believe they are properly represented in Baghdad. The Iraqi government also needs to engage with the Kurds, who have played a key role in defeating Isil.
“We want to thank the UK government for their support,” said Mr Talabany. But we need them to stay engaged for the next phase as we rebuild the country.
“We will need political support as we get the Sunnis back into the government in Baghdad otherwise we will end up with a new set of extremists in the country.
“If the Sunnis are brought back into the political system then that will be the end of Isil. But if the opposite happens then we could have new Islamist groups emerging that have a similar agenda as Isil.”
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