‘Interference’: Iraq PM’s office rejects Tillerson’s call for Iran-backed militias to ‘go home’

‘Interference’: Iraq PM’s office rejects Tillerson’s call for Iran-backed militias to ‘go home’
In a tight-lipped statement, Baghdad rejected a call by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for Iran-backed Shia militias to “go home” after the demise of Islamic State in Iraq.

Earlier on Sunday, Rex Tillerson said at a rare meeting with top Iraqi and Saudi Arabian officials that Iraq’s Shiite militias – also known as Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) – and their Iranian advisers need to leave Iraq as the struggle against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) is nearing an end.

But Baghdad seems reluctant to go along with Washington’s request, judging by a polite but robust remark made on Monday by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s office.

“No party has the right to interfere in Iraqi matters,” the statement posted on Facebook reads. It added that many PMU members were native Iraqis who made “enormous sacrifices to defend their country and the Iraqi people.”

The Iraqi government was surprised by Tillerson’s suggestion, according to the release.

During the Sunday meeting, Tillerson said “Iranian militias that are in Iraq, now that the fight against… ISIS is coming to a close, those militias need to go home.”

Foreign fighters in Iraq “need to go home and allow the Iraqi people to regain control,” the secretary of state said, amid US efforts to contain Tehran’s growing presence in the region.

Meanwhile, Tillerson also called on other countries to sever business ties with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), which the US itself recently designated as a terrorist organization.

Tens of thousands of Iraqis joined militia units in 2014 after Iraqi Shia cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani called for a national uprising against Islamic State terrorists by issuing a non-sectarian fatwa. Shiite PMU units were often referred to as part of the Iraqi security apparatus.

Though there are no official statistics, at some point PMU units numbered up to 100,000 fighters, according to US military estimates dated last year. The forces’ estimates ranged from 80,000 to 100,000, according to military spokesman Colonel Chris Garver.

READ MORE: Iran-backed Shiite forces in Iraq now estimated at 100,000 – US military spokesman

Iran has secured major strategic gains in the war against IS in Iraq over recent years, as it funded and trained the PMU which fought alongside the Iraqi Army in the battle of Mosul and other northern Iraqi cities. In contrast, US ally Saudi Arabia, a Sunni kingdom, has been on bad terms with Shiite-majority Iraq for more than two decades, after Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait, despite attempts to mend ties in recent years.

Courtesy: RT

Iraqi forces clash with Kurds moving closer to regional capital Erbil (VIDEO)

Iraqi forces clash with Kurds moving closer to regional capital Erbil (VIDEO)
Iraqi and Kurdish forces have clashed in the town of Altun Kupri on the border of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region, security official said, as Baghdad continues its offensive in the wake of a controversial referendum on Kurdish independence.

Iraqi security and pro-government militias descended on Altun Kupri, which lies some 50 km (30 miles) to the south of the Kurdish capital, Erbil, early on Friday.

Iraqi security and pro-government militias descended on Altun Kupri, which lies some 50 km (30 miles) to the south of the Kurdish capital, Erbil, early on Friday.

Video footage from the Kurdish front lines showed columns of smoke rising and what sounds like gunshots being heard in the distance.

In a statement, the Peshmerga General Command said it had repelled the Iraqi advance and destroyed a number of vehicles, including an American-made Abrams tank.

“In the morning of Friday October 20, 2017 at 8am, the Hashd al-Shaabi [Popular Mobilization Forces] militias using American weapons which were given to the Iraqi army launched a widespread attack on the Peshmerga forces in [Altun Kupri] Pirde with the Iranian artillery units also involving,” read the statement published by the Kurdish news outlet Rudaw.

READ MORE: Iraqi forces taking over Kirkuk ‘a declaration of war’ – Kurdish Peshmerga

“Until now, all of the attacks have been repelled and forces defeated and more than 10 Humvees and an Abrams tank were destroyed. In the confrontation, the Kurdistan Peshmerga forces have bravely put up a defense, achieving a great dignity for them.”

However, the Iraqi Defense Ministry said that the military have secured the town and the area around it.

“Altun Kupri is now under the total control of federal forces,” the ministry said in a statement quoted by Al-Jazeera.

Pictures on social media appear to show Iraqi soldiers in the town, displaying captured Kurdish flags.

A security source told AFP that Iraqi forces managed to “hoist the flag on the municipality building” in Altun Kupri as the sides exchanged mortar and automatic gunfire.

The sources also said that Kurdish general Ghazi Dolemri was killed in the fighting on Friday.

It’s unclear how many have been killed or wounded in Altun Kupri, but hospitals have confirmed they are dealing with a number of casualties.

An Al-Jazeera correspondent reported that two bridges had been destroyed and local people were fleeing the scene, while the Kurds were sending in reinforcements.

According to Iraq’s Joint Operations Command, the governmet forces have extended its territory to within 50 kilometers (30 miles) of Kurdish capital, Erbil.

AFP reported further shelling as Iraqi troops and militias advanced on Sirawa, located five kilometers north of Altun Kupri.

The district of Alton Kupri lies on the border between Iraqi Kurdistan and disputed territories formerly under its control, including the oil-rich province of Kirkuk, which had been seized by the Kurdish peshmerga forces during the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) advance of 2014.

The fighting in Alton Kupri comes days after the Iraqi military captured the regional capital of Kirkuk on Monday, where fighting also broke out with Kurdish militias.

Though Kurdish peshmerga fought alongside Iraqi soldiers and Shiite militias in the campaign against Islamic State, relations with the central government in Baghdad have taken a downward turn since then.

In September, the Kurdish government went ahead with a controversial referendum on independence, with 93 percent of voters opting for sovereignty. This drew the ire of not only Baghdad but also Turkey and Iran, which have their own large Kurdish minorities.

READ MORE: Barrels, ballots & ISIS: Why Iraq is taking back Kirkuk, and what the US will do about it

As a result, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered his military to take control of the contested areas including Kirkuk Governorate, and government forces began advancing on the region on Monday

Courtesy: RT

Dramatic moment Iraqi forces enter Kurdish Kirkuk, captured by RT (VIDEO)

An RT Arabic crew has been on the frontline in Kirkuk and managed to film dramatic scenes showing the very moments the Iraqi military forced its way into the Kurdish-controlled city Monday.

The exclusive footage brought by RT Arabic correspondent Bzurk Muhammad shows tanks and armored personnel carriers roaming the empty Kirkuk roads while brandishing red, black and green Iraqi flags. As they stream deeper into the city, thick white smoke starts filling the air. Men armed with rifles can be seen firing shots in the direction of the procession from a sidewalk, sparking panic among the onlookers.

As the Iraqi forces were preparing to take over, many of the locals opted to flee Kirkuk as it turned into a battle zone.

“Half the Kirkuk residents have left the city, worried because of the confrontation between the Iraqi Army and the Kurdish forces. The residents are fleeing into Kurdistan’s other provinces and demanding the war and hostilities in Kirkuk be stopped,” Peshtivan Ahmad, a local resident, told RT.

With Kirkuk split between a Kurdish, Arab and Turkmen population, there were those who rejoiced at the sight of the Iraqi Army taking control over the city.

“Where are Asayish [Kurdish intelligence agency] and Peshmerga?! They have abandoned the city. We are calling on the Iraqi government to hold corrupt officials and crooks who squandered Kirkuk’s budget accountable,” Sheikh Emad Fili, a local resident, told RT.

The lack of concerted response to the Iraqi forces’ invasion from the Kurdish militias highlighted the discord between different Kurdish factions, as some of the militias were reported to leave Kirkuk and others stayed to face off with the Iraqi forces.

Iraqi Army soldier Ahmad Hussaine told Muhammad that the troops have been on a hunt for Peshmerga fighters who might be still holing up in the city.

“Thank God, our combat spirit is very high,” Hussaine said, adding that the Iraqi forces have been combing the terrain in search for Kurdish fighters since Sunday.

“Some eight Peshmerga fighters were killed at the beginning. And since then we haven’t found anyone,” he said, noting that although there have been other instances of clashes with Peshmerga, they have not resulted in casualties.

“They tried to resist. They opened fire at us, but no one was hurt.”

Residents of Kirkuk, which borders Iraq’s Kurdistan Region, took part in a recent Kurdish independence referendum. The vote was denounced by Iraq and neighboring countries with large Kurdish populations, as well as by the international community.

While the ballot could have been the last straw, that prompted the Iraqi government to “enforce security” on the city, its timing shows that the retreat of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS, ISIL) rekindled smoldering conflicts and kick-started the carve-up of the freshly liberated territory.

Iraqi journalist Mahmood Ibrahim told RT that following the Iraqi push on Sunday night that saw the troops attacking the city from three sides with some Peshmerga units pulling out, the government succeeded in overrunning the city.

“Right now the city is almost completely under the control of the Iraqi forces, the federal police and the Popular Mobilization Units [Iraqi state-sponsored militia],” Ibrahim said, adding that both sides were reported to suffer minor losses.

“We are talking about 12 casualties from Al-Hashd Al-Sha’ab Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) and we’re talking about 10 of [the] Peshmerga [fighters].”

Meanwhile, there are concerns that sporadic clashes could spill over into a full-blown military confrontation, endangering Iraq’s integrity. Iraqi Parliamentary Speaker Salim Al-Jabouri told RT that although the lawmakers “support the presence of the army and their control of certain facilities in Kirkuk,” the situation is highly volatile.

“The situation on the ground is constantly developing. We are calling on both the Iraqi government and the Kurdish Autonomous Region to show reserve in solving their problems,” he said.

That the Iraqi Army is going after the Kurdish militias after a long time being preoccupied with a battle against IS, shows that the looming defeat of the terrorist group will exacerbate internal tensions, Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, argued.

“The battle against ISIS is, if not finished, it’s largely finished and they have been able to come up with a plan. The war of words got hotter and hotter and they have moved special forces” to Kirkuk, he said, adding that he believes that the oil resources in Kirkuk’s ground is the number one reason for the offensive.

READ MORE: Oil prices rising as Iraqi forces advance on Kurdish-held territory

“It’s all about oil. This is very important for Iraq to take a city which they believe is theirs, the government’s, and to establish very quickly, now that their military is stronger, has proven itself against ISIS… they wanted to strike while the iron is hot.”

As the situation began to unfold in Kirkuk, the US-led anti-IS coalition claimed that the Iraqi army maneuvers in the vicinity of the city “so far have been coordinated movements, not attacks” calling the clashes between Iraqi and Peshmerga forces “misunderstanding.”

US President Donald Trump said on Monday that the US is “not taking sides” in the ongoing standoff.

The State Department later issued a statement, saying that it is “very concerned by reports of violence around Kirkuk” urging all parties to avoid provocations, arguing that the clashes distract them from the battle against IS which is yet to be defeated in Iraq.

Courtesy: RT

Iraqi military advances in Kirkuk, captures key positions from Kurdish forces

Iraqi military advances in Kirkuk, captures key positions from Kurdish forces
Iraqi troops have captured several key Peshmerga-controlled positions near Kirkuk, one of the key cities in Iraqi Kurdistan and continue to advance, the Iraqi military has said.

The Iraqi armed forces gained control of roads and infrastructure near Kirkuk from Kurdish fighters, including the North Gas Company station, a nearby oil processing plant, and the industrial district south of the city. The military also captured Kirkuk’s K-1 Air Base from Kurdish forces, a military statement says, according to Reuters.

Following the clashes between the Kurdish Peshmerga military force and Iraqi government troops supported by pro-government militas civilians blocked roads inside Kirkuk to prevent Peshmerga military vehicles from retreating, according to Rudaw.

The troops were ordered to “impose security in Kirkuk in cooperation with Kurdish Peshmerga,” Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announced on live television. Under the orders, the army should “secure bases [and] federal installations in Kirkuk province.” The troops were also advised “to cooperate with Peshmerga and avoid confrontations, and to protect all civilians.”


The first four Iraqi vehicles tried to cross the defence lines are destroyed by Peshmerga. Still, war is not the solution.

Iraqi state TV reported that Counter-Terrorism Service, the federal government and the 9th division of the Iraqi Army, have already secured “large areas” without any resistance from the Kurdish command.

Kurdish news channel, Rudaw, however, reported that clashes between Kurdish and government-led forces erupted on the Taza Khurmatu front near Kirkuk.

Iraqi security sources told Reuters that gunfire was heard in Kirkuk while the Peshmerga were urging the locals to resist. Kurdish sources meanwhile told the agency that clashes took place in the industrial zone of Kirkuk, while an artillery exchange took place south of the city.

Peshmerga forces attacked by Iraqi forces/PMF in  using US equipment, incl Abrams tanks & Humvees gifted to Iraq for the war on Isis.

Earlier Baghdad and the command of PMF issued a list of demands calling on Peshmerga forces to leave a number of positions south and west of Kirkuk so that those outposts can be transferred under the control of Baghdad. The Kurds were reportedly given a deadline of 2am to comply with the ultimatum, Rudaw News reported.

The Kurdish leadership said on Saturday that they would not comply and leave all of the outposts mentioned in a list of demands, provincial Governor Najmaldin Karim told reporters.

“The places that they have demanded, as mentioned in those points, have so far all been rejected,” Karim was quoted as saying by Rudaw.

Tensions between Baghdad and the regional Kurdish government have been tense in the wake of Kurdistan’s independence referendum late last month where some 92.7 percent of voters chose to leave Iraq.

Baghdad immediately denounced the move as “unconstitutional.” Turkey, Iran and Syria also expressed their opposition to the creation of an independent Kurdistan over concerns that it may spur separatist sentiment in their own Kurdish-populated areas.

The Kurdish Peshmerga Ministry quickly dismissed the allegations. Kurdish leaders also rejected a call by Baghdad to cancel the results of the September 25 independence vote.

“The outcome of the referendum will not be nullified,” the Kurdish region’s Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani said after consulting Kurdistan’s two main political parties. “Talk of canceling these results is out of the question and will not address the problems.”

Courtesy: RT

Iraqi forces enter Kurdish-controlled Kirkuk

Iraq’s counter-terrorism forces have taken control of key government buildings in oil-rich Kirkuk. Thousands of Kurds have fled the city, fearing reprisal killings from Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed Shiite militias.

Iraqi civilians gather as Iraqi forces arrive in the first neighbourhood on the southern outskirts of Kirkuk
  • Iraqi forces entered the city of Kirkuk in Iraqi on Monday, capturing key government buildings including the Kirkuk governor’s building.
  • The incursion into the Kurdish-controlled area prompted thousands of Kurdish residents to flee, with international aid groups warning of the humanitarian fallout.
  • Amid escalating tensions, Germany’s defense ministry withdrew 140 military trainers stationed in northern Iraq to instruct peshmerga fighters involved in the fight against the “Islamic State.”

Iraq’s elite counter-terrorism forces on Monday entered Kirkuk and captured key government buildings in the Kurdish-controlled city, according to security sources. They raised the Iraqi flag over the provincial council’s headquarters in Kirkuk and took control of the governor’s building.

Read more: Kirkuk: What you need to know about the Kurdish-Iraqi dispute

Turkey has offered to help Iraq’s federal government oust Kurdish fighters from Kirkuk after reports that fighters of Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) were inside the oil-rich city.

Tensions between Baghdad and Iraqi Kurdistan have escalated since the the Iraqi Kurds overwhelmingly voted last month for an independent state in a non-binding referendum, which controversially included disputed territories such as Kirkuk.

What you need to know

  • Following a controversial Kurdish independence referendum, Iraqi forces gave Kurdish forces a Sunday deadline to retreat to positions agreed upon in a 2014 accord.
  • When Kurdish forces failed to do so, Iraqi security forces advanced on areas surrounding oil-rich Kirkuk, culminating in the capture of oil fields, regional government buildings, an airport and a military base on Monday.
  • Kurdish peshmerga forces retreated, effectively allowing Iraqi security forces and Iranian-backed Shiite militias to move into the city unopposed.

‘Impose security’

Iraqi state TV reported that Iraqi forces had taken control of “vast areas” outside of Kirkuk city.

Kurdish peshmerga forces reportedly retreated back from positions outside the city, but were setting up defenses in the city as thousands of civilians fled in cars north to Erbil and Sulaymaniyah. The move by Iraqi forces prompted the German military to withdraw 140 military trainers deployed in northern Iraq to instruct peshmerga fighters.

Read moreWhat is the Iraqi Kurdish independence referendum?

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered security forces “to impose security in Kirkuk in cooperation with the population of the city and the peshmerga.” He said that instructions were given for forces to stay out of the city.

The @IraqiGovt only acted to fulfil its constitutional duty to extend the federal authority,guarantee security & protect the national wealth

The Kurdistan Region Security Council claimed peshmerga had destroyed several US-supplied Humvees belonging to the PMU. Hemin Hawrami, an adviser to Kurdish President Masoud Barzani, quoted the peshmerga command as saying Abadi’s government would “pay a heavy price” for the assult on Kirkuk.

KirkukThousands of Kurdish families fled Kirkuk to the Kurdish cities of Erbil and Sulaymaniyah.

US: ‘Avoid additional escalatory actions’

The US Defense Department, which has supplied and trained both the peshmerga and Iraqi army, urged its two allies in the war against the “Islamic State” (IS) “to avoid additional escalatory actions.” It added that it opposed destabilising actions that distract from the battle against IS militants.

Later, US President Donald Trump said the US will not take sides, but expressed disappointment at the escalating dispute between two allies.

Read more: The Middle East’s complex Kurdish landscape

“We don’t like the fact that they’re clashing. We’re not taking sides,” Trump told reporters. “We’ve had for many years a very good relationship with the Kurds as you know and we’ve also been on the side of Iraq, even though we should have never been there in the first place.”

The Iraqi troops and the Kurdish peshmerga fighters have been engaged in a standoff since Saturday, when they took positions on opposite banks of a river on the southern outskirts of the city of Kirkuk.

Kurdish forces were given a deadline of 2 a.m. local time Sunday (2300 UTC Saturday) to surrender their positions and return to their pre-June 2014 positions.

Watch video03:39

Iraqi forces capture Kurdish positions near Kirkuk – Campbell MacDiarmid reports

Turkey offers help against PKK

In a statement, the Turkish foreign ministry said on Monday it supported the Iraqi government in retaking control of Kirkuk, offering to aid Iraqi forces to oust Kurdish forces from the oil-rich city. “We are ready for any form of cooperation with the Iraqi government to end the PKK presence in Iraqi territory,” the ministry said.

Baghdad said on Sunday fighters from Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) were present in Kirkuk among Kurdish peshmerga forces, in what it said amounted to a “declaration of war.”

Read more: In Iraq, minorities pin hopes on a Kurdish state

“It is impossible to remain silent” faced with “a declaration of war towards Iraqis and government forces,” the National Security Council headed by the Iraqi prime minister said in a statement.

The PKK-affiliated ANF News Agency said its fighters had been called to mobilize and form a “defensive line to protect the people.” The PKK has close ties with some Iraqi Kurdish parties, particularly the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. Turkey’s offer also stems from its support for its ethnic cousins, the Turkmen, which reside in the Kirkuk province.

Iraqi army in Kirkuk. Iraqi forces roll by a oil production plant outside Kirkuk.

Kirkuk: In Kurdish hands since 2014

Abadi has demanded that Kurdish leaders disavow the September 25 referendum, but the Kurds have rejected the demand. Baghdad called the referendum “anti-constitutional.” Turkey, Iran and the United States were all against the vote.

After the referendum, the Iraqi parliament asked Abadi to use armed force to retake control of Kirkuk, which is inhabited by Kurds as well as Sunni and Shiite Turkmen and Arabs. Last week, Abadi said he would accept a “joint administration” with the Kurds in the province.

Read more: Opinion: Kurds find few friends in independence referendum

The Kurdish peshmerga have controlled Kirkuk since 2014, when it prevented the province’s oil fields from falling into the hands of IS after the Iraqi army collapsed. With Baghdad weak, the Kurds moved to expand territory under their control outside the three provinces that officially make up the Kurdistan region.

The Kurds and Baghdad have long been in dispute over oil resources and revenue sharing. But the apparent collapse of the peshmerga within a day also led to bitter accusations between rival Kurdish parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party, highlighting factionalism that has plagued the Kurdish camp.

US ‘not taking sides’

US President Donald Trump said on Monday that the US was not taking sides in the conflict. “We don’t like the fact that they’re clashing. We’re not taking sides,” Trump told reporters at the White House.

“We’ve had for many years a very good relationship with the Kurds as you know and we’ve also been on the side of Iraq,” he
said.

Kurdish government representative in Washington, Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, said the US had already helped isolate the Kurds by publicly calling for them to postpone the September 25 referendum on independence that staretd the current dispute with Baghdad.

“With every step (Washington) emboldened Baghdad, Iran and Turkey … each one of them thinking: ‘Well, so the Kurds are on
their own, we can do whatever we like’,” she told the news agency Reuters.

 

Watch video02:09

Independence for Kurds in Iraq? Baghdad says ‘no’

ls, cw/rt/jbh (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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Iraq army recaptures Hawija from ‘Islamic State’

Iraqi forces have cleared out fighters from the “Islamic State” from their last stronghold in the country. IS now holds just a narrow slither in the country’s west.

Shiite Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) and Iraqi army members gather on the outskirts of Hawija, Iraq

US-backed Iraqi forces recaptured the town of Hawija on Thursday, forcing Islamic State (IS) fighters out of their last stronghold, Iraq’s prime minister announced.

The recapture now means that the only IS territory in Iraq is a narrow strip along the Syrian border.

Read more: UN creates team to investigate IS war crimes in Iraq as ‘caliphate’ crumbles

Infografik Syrien Irak IS Entwicklung Juli bis Oktober 2017 animierte GIF ENG

Troops, police and paramilitary forces “liberated the whole of the center of Hawija and are continuing their advance,” operation commander Lieutenant General Abdel Amir Yarallah said in a statement.

The offensive was led by Iraqi government troops and Iranian-trained and armed Shi’ite paramilitary groups known as Popular Mobilisation.

The United Nations estimated that 12,500 people had fled the town since the launch of the offensive last month. It said on Tuesday there could have been as many as 78,000 people left in the town.

Hawija, 230 kilometres (140 miles) north of Baghdad, had remained an insurgent bastion since soon after the US-led invasion of 2003. It was labeled “Kandahar in Iraq” for its similarities to the Taliban militia’s citadel in Afghanistan.

Journalists on the ground shared images of dozens of IS fighters surrendering.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi confirmed the recapture after talks with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris. “Only the outskirts remain to be recaptured,” he said.

“This victory is not just a victory for the Iraqis, but for the whole world.”

He his forces would now focus on the border zone with Syria in their fight against IS.

The Sunni Arab town of Hawaji was complicated to take given its hostility to both to the Shiite-led government in Baghdad and to the neighboring Kurds. It comes under the Kirkuk governorate, which is disputed between Baghdad and the northern Iraqi Kurdish autonomous region.

aw/rt (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)

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ISIS wants to create ‘new global terrorist network’ – Russia’s FSB chief

ISIS wants to create ‘new global terrorist network’ – Russia’s FSB chief
The leftovers of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) could try to form a new terrorist network after its eventual defeat in the Middle East, Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Aleksandr Bortnikov warns.

The terrorists have been “almost defeated while attempting to build their caliphate in Iraq and Syria,” he noted.

Yet, “the leaders of IS and other international terrorist groups have defined their global strategic objective as the creation of a new, worldwide terrorist network,” Bortnikov stated at a meeting of security services and law enforcement agencies from Russia and 73 other countries in the Russian city of Krasnodar.

This expansion can be seen through attacks hitting not only war-torn states, such as Iraq and Syria, but also Spain, Turkey, Russia, Sweden, Finland and the UK, he noted.

The terrorists must “demonstrate to their current and potential future sponsors and sympathisers” that they still have the ability to take further action.

Terrorists have been rapidly losing ground in Iraq and Syria over the past months. Now, Bortnikov noted, “militants are purposefully spread out beyond the Middle East, concentrating in unstable regions with the aim of creating new hotspots of tension and armed conflict.”

The most important of these regions was Afghanistan, Bortnikov explained, where IS has already got a foothold in certain areas and may try to spread its influence into India, China, Iran and Central Asia.

Additionally, other terrorist strongholds are emerging in Yemen, Africa and Southeast Asia.

Bortnikov also revealed that the terrorists pose a threat not only in the real world, but online as well. Besides spreading propaganda and finding new recruits, they are also forming new “cyber-divisions” which can be deployed to attack key infrastructure. This kind of threat, the FSB chief warned, requires worldwide co-operation.

“Considering that many computer attacks are of an international nature, the effectiveness of countering them is largely determined by the organization and co-operation of national security agents reacting to computer incidents,” said the official.

To counter the evolving global threat, the official proposed to “expand practical co-operation in reacting to computer incidents and to consider forming an international legal framework for banning the development of malicious software.”

The respective software may come in the form of malware, spyware, viruses and other programs that can be used to damage or infiltrate computer systems.

Bortnikov’s remarks come after a number of serious global cyberattacks on computer systems.

In May, over 250,000 computer systems from 150 countries around the world, including Russia, the United States, the UK, India, Brazil and Japan, were infected with the WannaCry ransomware. A month later the WannaCry was followed by a similar, but smaller attack using the Petya ransomware, which is said to have affected more than 20,000 people around the world.

Courtesy: RT