The Al-Azhar Observatory for Combating Extremism warned of the dangers of sleeper cells of extremist organizations, especially those of the terrorist organization ISIS.
The Observatory said in a statement that ISIS is still able to launch attacks targeting both civilians and military personnel through its sleeper cells, in a desperate attempt to prove its strength and cohesion after the loss of its historical leaders and to divert attention from its crises.
The statement indicated that these cells represent an important part of ISIS’s plans, especially after it adopted the strategy of bringing down cities and the presence of its members in deserted mountains, deserts, and villages.
After losing its former areas of control, ISIS dismantled its military organization, which contained three armies (Dabiq, Al-Khalifa, and Al-Asra), and was satisfied with some military networks.
After having forces in Iraq alone exceeding 20,000 fighters, the organization settled for 3,000 and turned the rest into logistical elements or sleeper cells, which it activated whenever it wanted.
The Observatory raised a number of questions, including: Is it possible for ISIS to return to life as it did from 2014 to 2017? Are these cells a real danger? What are effective control methods to limit their spread?
The Observatory said that sleeper cells are as dangerous as the military activity of extremist organizations because they are secret forces that are distributed in different areas to facilitate terrorist activities without anyone realizing them.
One of the tasks of these cells is to carry out terrorist activities but in a peaceful manner, not using weapons. Sleeper cells of the ISIS terrorist organization have spread throughout northern, eastern and northwestern Iraq, northeastern Syria and the Desert over the past two years.
This poses a serious threat to their ability to hide and sneak through porous security paths; it also makes the task of tracking them very difficult.
The Observatory noted that this requires “soft efforts” to sort out the cells and cleanse the liberated areas from the clutches of extremist organizations.
In order to combat the return of sleeper cells, the Observatory calls for bolstering military operations in order to eradicate and dismantle these cells and stem the tide of terrorism that is sweeping towards security-fragile areas.
Intelligence efforts also rely on tracking the elements and activities of these cells in an effort to dismantle them and dry up their funding sources. At the same time, however, all of this should be in parallel with efforts to combat ideological extremism and raise awareness, especially among young people in areas under the old control of ISIS.