COVID-19 provides opportunity for Daesh, Al-Qaeda, says UN chief
NEW YORK: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned that the COVID-19 pandemic provides new opportunities for Daesh extremist group, Al-Qaeda and their affiliates as well as neo-Nazis, white supremacists and hate groups.
The UN chief said it’s too early to fully assess the implications of the coronavirus pandemic on terrorism, but all these groups seek to exploit divisions, local conflicts, failures in governing, and other grievances to advance their aims.
Guterres told the launch of UN Counter-Terrorism Week that the Daesh group, which once controlled a vast swath of Syria and Iraq, is trying to reassert itself in both countries, “while thousands of foreign terrorist fighters battle in the region.”
“The pandemic has also highlighted vulnerabilities to new and emerging forms of terrorism, such as misuse of digital technology, cyberattacks and bio-terrorism,” he said.
Josep Borrell, the EU’s top diplomat, told the virtual meeting that a global understanding of the pandemic’s implications on counter-terrorism efforts across the world is needed.
“It is true that, in some places, the crisis has led to a reduction of terrorist activity, mainly due to the mobilization of state security services,” he said. “But in other regions, terrorism and human suffering caused by it continue unabated.”
Former American diplomat Richard Haas, who heads the Council on Foreign Relations, said he believes COVID-19 “will add to the challenges of counter-terrorism.”
“It will perhaps create an environment where more countries become weak or fail,” he said, and recruitment for terrorist organizations will quite possibly go up.
With global attention focused on tackling the pandemic, Tunisia’s UN Ambassador Kais Kabtani said, terrorist groups are seeking to capitalize “by undermining state authority and launching new attacks.”