NEW YORK, Feb 11 (KUNA) -- A UN report highlighted Monday the continuing threat of sl-called Islamic State (IS) as a global group with centralized leadership, despite the decline in the number of attacks worldwide during 2018.
Vladimir Voronkov, Under-Secretary-General, UN Office of Counter-Terrorism, briefed UN council members on a report of Secretary-General on threat posed by IS to international peace and security, and on the range of the UN efforts in support of Member States in countering the threat.
The report, Voronkov added, also tackles the increased threat by returning, relocating or released foreign terrorist fighters, adding that the report illustrates continuing United Nations support for national efforts to address it.
With its center of gravity in Iraq and Syria, where it is reported to control between 14,000 and 18,000 militants, IS continues to evolve into a covert network with the intent to undermine any form of stabilization, he emphasized.
Despite the more concealed or locally embedded activities of IS cells, its central leadership retains influence and maintains the intent to generate internationally directed attacks.
This is exacerbated by the challenge of foreign terrorist fighters either leaving conflict zones or about to be released from prison.
Radicalization in prison is a particular challenge in Europe and Iraq, he stressed.
In terms of IS's financial strength, he cited the report as noting that, despite loss of revenue, the group can sustain its operations through accessible reserves or investment in businesses, ranging from USD 50 million to USD 300 million.
The group's residual threat in Iraq is reported to emanate both from local remnants of the group and from fighters crossing the border from Syria. In Africa, the report highlights the threat that IS poses in Libya, where it has targeted police stations and oil facilities.
In Europe, approximately 1,000 foreign terrorist fighters are reported to have travelled from the western Balkans to conflict zones in Iraq and Syria, he said, adding that IS is also reported to control some training camps in Afghanistan.
The report also cites the increasing role of women and young people in terrorist operations in South-East Asia.
He said the report also outlines the work undertaken by relevant UN agencies and offices, including the Office of Counter-Terrorism, UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in countering the financing of terrorism, border enforcement and countering terrorist narratives.
The Secretary-General has encouraged the Office of Counter-Terrorism to provide a forum in which expertise can be shared, he said, underlining the particular importance of that aspect in addressing the flow of foreign terrorist fighters, including returnees.
The Office is working to implement various counter-terrorism instruments and organizing thematic regional events on countering and preventing terrorism, he said, stressing: Recent IS losses should not lead to complacency at any level.
On another front, Michele Coninsx, Executive Director, Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, said that despite the dwindling control of IS over territories that once provided it with unprecedented resources and a base for launching attacks, complex challenges remain.
The dramatic change in the group's circumstances has driven it into a covert, more locally focused network in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere.
IS has nonetheless retained its global networks and is today one of the international terrorist groups most likely to carry out a large-scale attack, she said, adding that its plans to fuel sectarian tensions are an ongoing concern.
Highlighting three challenges, she said the destructive legacy of IS in Iraq and Syria is manifested in the millions of displaced persons living in dire conditions inside camps.
"Rebuilding structures and restoring and reconciling communities - including through a comprehensive criminal justice system - is a long-term investment" that can only succeed through the continued involvement of local, national, regional and international actors, she said.
For States to advance justice and accountability, the collection, preservation and use of evidence is fundamental, she emphasized, adding that, where criminal justice officials are unable to operate in high-risk conditions, the military can play a critical role.
Governments can also establish special investigative and prosecutorial bodies to support criminal justice efforts, she noted, welcoming the establishment of the UN Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by IS in Iraq and the Levant (UNITAD) in that context.
Another challenge has been the increasing number of suspected terrorists, including returning and relocating foreign terrorist fighters and their family members in custody, she said.
It is vital that States monitor, evaluate and review the effectiveness of their prosecution, rehabilitation and reintegration programs.
Effective regulation, review and oversight of those strategies must include protection of human rights, with prosecutions taking rehabilitation and reintegration goals into consideration.
Pointing out that terrorist groups have consistently demonstrated their ability to exploit new technologies and circumvent obstacles to their financial, technical and recruitment capabilities, she cited their use of mobile payment services in West Africa, and more broadly, concerns over their possible exploitation of the anonymity afforded by blockchain technology.
She went on to detail IS's use of improvised explosive devices, access to know-how and ability to obtain precursor materials, emphasizing that the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate - through a global initiative undertaken in partnership with UNODC and the International Association for Prosecutors - will continue to support State efforts by facilitating technical assistance and enhancing cooperation with the private sector.
She also highlighted the Directorate's extensive work with the Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee in adopting the Addendum to the Madrid Guiding Principles to help Governments reduce the flow of foreign terrorist fighters.
The Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate will also intensify efforts to develop, with Member States, comprehensive responses to terrorism, she said, noting that Governments in the Lake Chad Basin area are developing strategies to prosecute, rehabilitate and reintegrate persons associated with Boko Haram, with strategic support from the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate and technical expertise from UNODC. (end)