IS Expanding its Outreach to Syria's Neighbors

Jun 29, 2016

On June 28, Istanbul Ataturk International Airport in Turkey was attacked when three militants launched a combined shooting and bombing suicide mission, killing at least 36. Turkish authorities blamed the Islamic State for the terrorist act. Earlier in this week, IS claimed responsibility for several attacks targeting Jordan, bordering Syria to the south. The group carried out a raid against an Iraq-Jordan border crossing on June 28 and killed six Jordanian soldiers in an SVBIED attack on June 21 in the Rukban refugee camp, close to the Syrian border. Lebanon was also struck by two separate attacks, each attack reportedly involving four operatives wearing PBIEDs in the village of Qaa on June 27, close to the border with Syria, killing five and wounding 28.

Over the past several months, signs have been accumulating that IS is anxious to expand its outreach into countries neighboring Syria, as its grip in Syria and Iraq weakens. Such terrorist attacks in neighboring countries also help the group, to some extent, to compensate for the lack of military achievements and loss of territory. All three countries hit this week were the target of IS operatives or IS-linked propaganda. Turkey was specifically threatened in a propaganda video released by IS in late March, due to its cooperation with Iraqi Kurds against the Islamic State. Turkey also stepped up airstrikes against the group in northern Syria and backs rival Islamist forces operating in this area.

In March 2016, Terrogence's Hydra report specifically pointed at Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon as potential IS targets due to an apparent spike in activity online and on the ground in these areas. The report also noted that these countries are all dealing with political and social challenges IS can effectively exploit, in addition to long, porous borders with Syria and a massive influx of Syrian refugees.