US counterterror official says Daesh still a threat

Author: APSat, 2017-07-22 19:57ID: 1500739506754323700ASPEN, Colorado: A top counterterrorism official said Friday the world still faces threats from Daesh militants despite their territorial losses.Nick Rasmussen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, says Daesh controls less territory, but added that the US cannot breathe a sigh of relief from a diminished threat. He said officials still worry that a small number of skilled fighters could move out of the region and launch attacks in the West or in their homelands.“We’re not at the point where we can exhale or look at things and say that the threat condition has significantly improved,” Rasmussen said.He said there is going to be a lag time after success on the battlefield. Daesh has spread around the globe, suggesting that, “we’re going to be dealing with an enduring threat picture for some period of time,” he said.“Our view of this has changed a little bit in the intelligence community in the last several months,” Rasmussen said. “At one point we were worried about this outrush — this massive outflow — of foreign fighters once the battlefield situation changed in Iraq and Syria and that western countries and countries in the region would be flooded with returnees. Speaking broadly, that’s less likely.”He said that many — if not most — of Daesh fighters will stay and fight and potentially die defending Daesh territory.Meanwhile, Pentagon chief Jim Mattis said Friday that he believes Daesh chief Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi is still alive, following various claims he was dead.“I think Baghdadi’s alive… and I’ll believe otherwise when we know we’ve killed him,” Mattis told Pentagon reporters.“We are going after him, but we assume he is alive.”There have been persistent rumors that Baghdadi has died in recent months.The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a longtime conflict monitor, last week said it had heard from senior Daesh leaders in Syria’s Deir Ezzor province that Baghdadi was dead.Russia’s army said in mid-June that it was seeking to verify whether it had killed Daesh chief in a May air strike in Syria.With a $25 million US bounty on his head, Baghdadi has kept a low profile but was rumored to move regularly throughout Daesh-held territory in Iraq and Syria.The Iraqi native has not been seen since making his only known public appearance as “caliph” in 2014 at the Grand Mosque of Al-Nuri in Mosul, which was destroyed in the battle for Iraq’s second city.
Main category: Middle-East

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