UN says 20,000-30,000 IS fighters in Iraq, Syria

UNITED NATIONS: Between 20,000 and 30,000 IS fighters remain in Iraq and Syria despite the group’s defeat and a halt in the flow of foreigners joining its ranks, according to a UN report released on Monday. The report by UN sanctions monitors estimates that between 3,000 and 4,000 IS fighters were based in Libya while some of the key operatives in the group were being relocated to Afghanistan. Member-states told the monitors that the total IS membership in Iraq and Syria was “between 20,000 and 30,000 individuals, roughly equally distributed between the two countries.” “Among these is still a significant component of the many thousands of active foreign terrorist fighters,” said the report.

The sanctions monitoring team submits independent reports every six months to the Security Council on the IS and Al Qaeda, which are on the UN terrorist blacklist. IS once controlled large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria, but last year it was driven out of Mosul and Raqa. By January 2018, IS was confined to small pockets of territory in Syria, although the report said the group “showed greater resilience” in eastern Syria. IS “is still able to mount attacks inside Syrian territory. It does not fully control any territory in Iraq, but it remains active through sleeper cells” of agents hiding out in the desert and elsewhere, said the report. There are an estimated 3,500-4,500 IS fighters in Afghanistan and those numbers are increasing, according to the report. — AFP