ISIS attacks could increase abroad, despite loss of territory and finances: report

Trump says Mosul, Raqqa to be liberated from ISIS ‘butchers’ shortly
WATCH ABOVE: President Trump says Mosul, Raqqa to be liberated from ISIS "butchers" shortly

The Islamic State group (ISIS) took a huge hit last week, losing its stronghold on Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city.

Despite the territorial loss, the chance of a terrorist attack happening abroad could be on the rise, according to a new report.

A global intelligence and data firm, IHS Markit, said ISIS has lost more than 60 per cent of its territory and 80 per cent of its revenue since the terrorist group declared its “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria in 2014.

READ MORE: Islamic state fighters struggle to hold Mosul streets as Iraqi army units press on

But the loss of territory is driving ISIS to intensify its campaign of terrorist attacks abroad, the report said.

“ISIS’ ideology is still all over the world,” Phil Gurski, a former CSIS analyst and current president of Borealis Threat and Risk Consulting said. “The caliphate may be dead, but the terrorist ideology is still alive.”

Story continues below advertisement

WATCH: Iraqi forces launch final assault on ISIS’s hold on Mosul Old City

Iraqi forces launch final assault on Mosul Old City
Iraqi forces launch final assault on Mosul Old City

Gurski said ISIS fighters in Iraq may flee the area and instead may be on their way to carry out attacks in the West.

“A terrorist attack is bound to happen in the West again,” he said.

Tweet This

Loss of territory

In January 2015, the jihadist group controlled 90,800 square kilometres in Iraq and Syria, according to the report. This is roughly the size of Portugal or the U.S. state of Wyoming.

In 2017, the territory spanned an estimated 36,200 square kilometres, which is roughly the size of Belgium or the U.S. state of Maryland, the report said. This is a 40 per cent loss of land since the start of 2017, and a 60 per cent reduction since January 2015.

“The Islamic State’s rise and fall has been characterized by rapid inflation, followed by steady decline,” Columb Strack, senior Middle East analyst at IHS Markit said.

“Three years after the ‘caliphate’ was declared, it is evident that the group’s governance project has failed.”

Tweet This

Strack said ISIS’ remaining caliphate is likely to break up before the end of 2017, which will be reduced to “a string of isolated urban areas that will eventually be retaken over the course of 2018.”

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: Iraq declares end of caliphate after capture of Mosul mosque

WATCH: ISIS seized the Iraqi city, Mosul in June 2014

With Mosul about to fall, Col. Ryan Dillon with the U.S. Defence Department, said ISIS no longer has a hub.

“ISIS’ so-called caliphate is crumbling from the outside and from within. As ISIS continues to lose territory, their morale plummets,” he said at a media briefing last week.

ISIS finances dwindling

As ISIS continues to lose more ground in the Middle East, the group’s monthly income is also dwindling. In 2015, ISIS was making around $81 million a month. In 2017, the group was taking in around $16 million a month, which is a reduction of 80 per cent, according to the report.

The extremist fighters receive most of their income from taxation and extortion, oil production and smuggling and other illicit activities, according to the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence (ICSR).

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: ISIS turns to extortion, kidnapping for revenue as allies win back territory

“Territorial losses are the main factor contributing to the Islamic State’s loss of revenue,” Ludovico Carlino, senior Middle East analyst at IHS Markit said.

“Losing control of the heavily populated Iraqi city of Mosul, and oil-rich areas in the Syrian provinces of Raqqa and Homs, has had a particularly significant impact on the group’s ability to generate revenue,” he said.

There are no signs ISIS will make up for the financial losses and the group’s business model could soon fail, according to ICSR.

Attacks abroad could increase

The military defeat in Iraq and loss of territory in Syria won’t “sway the views of Islamic State supporters,” the report said.

“Egyptian, Saudi Arabian and UAE efforts at weakening radicals’ influence, and pressuring clerics to develop a new interpretation of Islam that is reconciled with modernity, are likely to drive some Islamist conservatives into embracing violence,” Firas Modad, senior Middle East analyst at IHS Markit said.

“Efforts by Western governments to confront Islamists are likely to have the same effect. Terrorism risks from Islamist groups are therefore likely to increase before they decrease,” Modad said.

Gurski agrees.

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: ISIS operative in Philippines insists Manila casino attacker was ‘soldier of the caliphate’

He said even if ISIS in Iraq and Syria disappears forever, there are still several other ISIS affiliates that have pledged allegiance to them, including in Libya and Yemen.

“ISIS is on the way out, this is a good thing,” he said. “But we don’t want to get on our party hats and celebrate as this isn’t the end.”

— With files from the Associated Press