7 February 2017
7877th Meeting (AM)

Islamic State Expanding Attacks to Europe, Africa despite Faltering in Middle East Battle Zones, Under-Secretary-General Tells Security Council

Delegates Say ISIL Stepping up Kidnappings; Interventionist, Regime-change Policies to Blame for Global Terrorism Threat

While Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh) was on the defensive militarily in Iraq and Syria, its fighters, fleeing beyond those borders, were expanding their attacks to Europe and Africa, the United Nations political affairs chief warned in the Security Council today, urging action to combat the rise of terrorism.

Briefing the 15-member Council on the ISIL threat, Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, called upon it to step up efforts to resolve conflicts, particularly those responsible for the dramatic increase in global terrorism.  He warned that ISIL had expanded its attack area to countries neighbouring Iraq and Syria, while continuing to encourage its followers further afield to perpetrate attacks.  Foreign terrorist fighters leaving those two countries were also augmenting the threat in their respective homelands, he added.

While ISIL’s income and the territory under its control seemed to be shrinking, the group retained sufficient funds to continue fighting, he continued.  It relied heavily on income from extortion and the exploitation of hydrocarbons, even though resources from the latter were declining.  Member States were therefore concerned that ISIL would try to expand other sources of income, such as kidnapping for ransom, and increase its reliance on donations by further propagating its messages.

Presenting the Secretary-General’s fourth report on the threat posed by ISIL to international peace and security and United Nations efforts to help Member States counter the threat (document S/2017/97), he pointed out that while previous reports concentrated on South-east Asia, Yemen, East Africa, Libya and Afghanistan, the current one focused on Europe, as well as North and West Africa.  The terror group had conducted a range of attacks in Europe since its 2014 declaration of its intentions in the region, he said, adding that its members had directed and facilitated some of the attacks.  ISIL had enabled other such actions by providing guidance, assistance and inspiration through propaganda.  It had also reinforced its presence in West Africa and the Maghreb, and its affiliate Boko Haram was attempting to spread its influence by committing terrorist attacks beyond Nigeria with the several thousand fighters at its disposal.

The latest report outlined actions by Member States in Europe, the Maghreb and West Africa to counter ISIL, he continued.  Concerning Europe, for example, it highlighted improved information-sharing, cooperation in addressing terrorist attacks and curtailing the travel and transit of foreign terrorist fighters.  On the Maghreb and West Africa, the report noted that States were pooling resources regionally to combat terrorism, while also enhancing information-sharing.  Some West African States were taking action to counter the financing of terrorism, including through legislation, he said, pointing out, however, that it said few terrorist-financing cases had been prosecuted.  United Nations actions to counter the ISIL threat included providing capacity-building assistance to Member States, assisting with border security and improving methods for addressing kidnapping for ransom.  The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) continued to help with strengthening law enforcement, he said.

Despite the existence of 19 universal counter-terrorism conventions and protocols, and various other relevant resolutions, Member States continued to face challenges in ensuring effective international cooperation, he emphasized.  Improving response would remain critical in addressing the growth of transnational terrorism, especially as ISIL continued to expand its area of attacks and as foreign terrorist fighters left Syria and Iraq.  Although many of the latter stayed behind in conflict zones, he said, those returning home or otherwise leaving conflict zones could pose grave risks to their home countries, those to which they were travelling, or those through which they were transiting, such as neighbours of Iraq and Syria.  It was critical to step up efforts to prevent and resolve the violent conflicts that both drive and made conflict worse by terrorism, he said, stressing that, ultimately, the spread and consolidation of peace, security, development and human rights would most effectively deprive terrorism of the oxygen it needed to survive.

Following the briefing, Luis Bermúdez (Uruguay) said that, while, encouraged by the military defeat of ISIL in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan, he remained concerned that the group was seeking to adapt to the new circumstances.  Its use of communications systems to recruit, and of local terrorist cells to attract followers in third countries gave new context to attacks carried out by lone wolves, he said, adding that private efforts to create a database of images promoting terrorism were under way.  However, Da’esh still had sufficient resources to fight and was intensifying its kidnappings and online donations to fill its coffers.  Inter-State and international cooperation was essential to combat terrorist networks, he stressed, praising actions to that end by the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) and the European Police Office (Europol).

Uruguay encouraged continuing collaboration to deal with terrorism financing, recruitment methods, foreign terrorist fighter flows and migratory controls, he continued.  However, since the main responsibility lay with States, they must all demonstrate true political will to fight terrorism, including the use of sexual violence as a tactic of war, he stressed.  Concerned also about the use of sex trafficking as a terrorist tactic, he underlined the importance of Council resolution 2331 (2016) and asked for further information on efforts by States to end the practice.  Turning to his own region, he cautioned that, while terrorism was a minor concern in Latin America, no State was immune.  It was in the best interest of the United Nations to foster cooperation among States in combating terrorism, he said.  At the same time, national counter-terrorism strategies must respect international law, including international human rights law and international humanitarian law.

Sacha Sergio Llorentty Solíz (Bolivia) condemned all forms of terrorism by all actors, emphasizing that it should not be associated with any religion, ethnicity or nationality.  He said that, while valuing the Under-Secretary-General’s focus on foreign fighters returning to Europe, West Africa and the Maghreb, he was particularly concerned about the situation of women and girls in areas where terrorists operated.  Efforts by Turkey, Iran, Russian Federation and the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Syria to negotiate a ceasefire in that country were a great blow to ISIL, he said.

He went on to emphasize the importance of remembering that interventionist and regime-change policies were the root cause of terrorism.  “We would not be sitting here dealing with this issue […] and the loss of over 1 million lives,” he said, had it not been for the invasion of Iraq by the United States, its attempts to overthrow the Government of Syria and the destruction of Libya.  However, the countries that had created the policies that had led up to the current upheaval were not taking in refugees from those areas, he pointed out.

The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 10:30 a.m.

For information media. Not an official record.