George Diepenbrock
KU News Service

Researcher: Recent attacks indicate expansion of Islamic State's operational capacity

Mon, 11/16/2015

LAWRENCE — French and Belgian officials, according to national news reports on Monday, said they were looking into the possibility a Belgian man now fighting with the Islamic State in Syria helped plan Friday's deadly attacks in Paris that killed at least 129 people.

A University of Kansas researcher who studies the Islamic State discussed the significance of recent attacks conducted outside of Iraq and Syria.

Don Haider-Markel, professor and chair of the Department of Political Science, can speak about terrorism tactics of the Islamic State and recent developments in the Middle East and Europe. His research includes terrorism, extremist groups, public policy and American politics.

Q: If the Islamic State, or ISIS, is behind the recent terror attacks that include the Russian plane in Egypt, the Beirut bombing and the attacks in Paris, could it mean the group has grown more powerful with its ability to strike targets outside of Iraq and Syria?

Haider-Markel: ISIS was likely behind each of these tragedies, and it indicates that they and their affiliates have reached a new level of operational capacity. However, the attacks also indicate an evolution of strategy that ISIS had predicted. It would eventually engage in jihad against all enemies of Islam, including Russia, Western countries and "corrupt" regimes in predominately Muslim countries. The result of these attacks brings these countries further into the Syrian-Iraqi conflict and serves to confirm the ISIS message that these countries are attacking Muslims.

Q: Is there significance in ISIS using the Internet and social media to recruit?

Haider-Markel: The Paris attacks might indicate that ISIS has become much better at employing encrypted communications and channels that are difficult for law enforcement and intelligence agencies to infiltrate.

Q: What other apparent evidence could link ISIS to the Paris attacks?

Haider-Markel: The media are somewhat overstating that this was a highly sophisticated attack. Outside of the suicide vests the weapons were simple. It did require a high degree of coordination, which requires a lot of operational planning and surveillance of targets, which also takes time. The evidence that the Paris attacks were carried out by ISIS and not al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula is the use of suicide vests, credit claiming and what seems to be the combination of attackers who had not traveled abroad along with attackers who had traveled abroad.

To arrange an interview with Haider-Markel, contact George Diepenbrock at 785-864-8853 or

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