Intelligence services are facing an ever-growing demand on their expertise to hunt down members of the IS terrorism network which has claimed responsibility for a succession of attacks across the world in recent months.
Dr Afshin Shahi, the director of the Bradford University-based Centre for the Study of Political Islam, claimed the fragmented nature of the IS organisation means that it is extremely difficult for security agencies to track down those behind the most recent atrocities – as well as those who are planning future attacks.
He said: “IS is evolving as an organisation at a very rapid rate, and it is clearly pursuing a campaign that is aimed at creating as much fear in communities across the Middle-East and the West as it can. It had previously been more concerned about the expansion of its territories in Iraq and Syria, but now in retaliation to the anti-IS coalition in Iraq and Syria, they are targeting their enemies in their own countries. This is not just about targeting France, this is a message to every country that is part of the anti-IS coalition.”
But Dr Shahi claimed that the ability to track the terrorists was a huge challenge, due to IS having a loosely-based hierarchy and a fragmented structure spread across the globe. There has been a concerted effort by the terrorist organisation to promote the brand of IS to scattered networks of other extremists to aid its cause.
Dr Shahi said: “There are a host of reasons as to why Paris has been targeted again. There is a great deal of polarisation between Muslims and the wider communities, and a lot of tension. It may be as simple as the fact that the terrorists have been able to establish a better network in France than other countries, and the free movement around Europe into France has aided that.”
The Centre for the Study of Political Islam, which is based at Bradford University will be officially launched next month at the House of Lords in London, although it has been operating since February this year. It is the first academic centre of its kind in the UK to study the various aspects of political Islam.