IS terror threat as strong as ever after latest attack

Islamist groups took credit for last week's outrage, which killed 253 people - including eight Britons - when bombers targeted churches and luxury hotels. Now officials say there is no doubt that terrorists can be found globally and not just in Iraq and Syria. Haras Rafiq, the Muslim head of the counter-extremism Quilliam Foundation think-tank, said: "Islamist extremists live in a binary world: Dar al Islam, the land of Islam, and Dar al Harb, the land of war.

"If you don't live in one, then you live in the other. They are already at war, and their war knows no borders.

"After 9/11, the focus was on al-Qaeda. When Bin Laden was finally killed, one senior western politician told me, unbelievably, that the job was done, and the Isis." He said that whatever brand the terrorists acted under, the root cause was still a warped interpretation of Islam.

He added: "The time has come to acknowledge that focusing on acronyms is just playing whac-a-mole.

"Instead of dealing with the effects of these campaigns, we must start tackling the causes."

Last Sunday's attacks are officially attributed to two littleknown Islamist groups - National Thowheeth Jama'ath (NTJ), which had been named in an intelligence warning 10 days earlier, and Jammiyathul Millathu Ibrahim (JMI). NJT had previously smashed up Buddhist statues - a clear message in a country in which Muslims account for less than 10 per cent of the population.

Its leader Mohamed Zahran is said to be one of the suicide bombers killed in the attacks.

Two brothers, Ilham Ahmed and Ismath Ibrahim, also detonated suicide bombs.

Their father Mohamed Yusuf Ibrahim, a wealthy copper factory owner, was arrested on suspicion of helping them to secure vital components for the explosive devices.

But experts said it was unlikely that two local groups with a hitherto limited capacity for violence could have escalated their operation to such a level without outside help.

This points to the type of skills and training honed in Iraq or Syria and provides a further reminder the threat from IS is not over.

It had long been feared during the strikes in Syria that hardened fighters would simply flee and spread global jihad elsewhere. In Iraq, IS followers have already blended back into the local population and are said to be regrouping.

Intelligence sources also estimate that up to 20,000 IS followers escaped the net of coalition forces. Some, experts warn, are making their way west to Nigeria or Mali and the desert lands of the Sahel, which separate NorthAfrica from the rest of the continent.

Jihadi expert Professor Candyce Kelshall said: "The prospect of Isis and its affiliates gaining ground in Mali, Sierra Leone, Niger and Burkina Faso isn't a tomorrow problem - it's happening now. It's something we need to be dealing with."

Across the globe, there exist more than 100 Islamist groups whose aims broadly coincide in installing Salafist rule, an extreme interpretation of Islam.

Al-Qaeda is reportedly undergoing a resurgence with its leader, the Egyptian surgeon Ayman al-Zawahiri, said to be grooming bin Laden's son, Hamza, to take over.

Mr Rafiq argued that to tackle the problem of terrorism, the twisted extreme ideology itself needed to be highlighted and dealt with.

He said: "We will not get anywhere in tackling this threat until we realise the importance that ideology plays.

"In Britain, we've been tackling the effect and not the cause since the 7/7 attacks.

"The way forward is to actively teach people at a young age in schools that this ideology is just not acceptable. This war will never be won until it starts to attack the ideology itself."

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