Ali Soufan Quoted in The New Yorker: Does the Manchester Attack Show the Islamic State’s Strength or Weakness?
May 24, 2017
The New Yorker
By: Robin Wright
Ten hours after Salman Abedi blew himself up outside the Manchester Arena, where the American pop star Ariana Grande was performing, ISIS claimed a grisly attack that killed twenty-two people and injured dozens more. “With Allah’s grace and support, a soldier of the Khilafah (caliphate) managed to place explosive devices in the midst of the gatherings of the Crusaders in the British city of Manchester,” the group boasted on social messaging apps, in multiple languages. The odd thing—for a group that has usually been judicious about its claims and accurate in its facts—is that it got key details wrong …
ISIS is both expanding and contracting to survive, U.S. officials say. “ISIS is going back to its roots and using terrorist attacks to try to drive its message and ideology,” the State Department official told me. “It’s trying to maintain its influence and its ability to drive its ideology. It’s committing these attacks to show people that it can still do these operations and is still a relevant force. This fight is far from over.”
The physical disruption of the ISIS proto-state may increase the danger of lone-wolf attacks in the West, experts told me. Over the past three years, an estimated five thousand Europeans joined extremist movements in Syria and Iraq; about twenty per cent have returned to their home countries, according to Ali Soufan, a former F.B.I. agent and the author of a new book, “Anatomy of Terror: From the Death of bin Laden to the Rise of the Islamic State.” Up to eight hundred British citizens joined ISIS and the smaller extremist movements, a British official told me.
“Even if they do not go back to Europe, they can still inspire attacks, or ask friends and colleagues and family members to be involved in operations in Western societies,” Soufan told me …
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