Yesterday’s Islamic State-inspired terrorist attack is yet another in a long string of killings carried out by independent Islamists who adhere to the fatalistic ISIS ideology. These attacks, which are responsible for the deaths of hundreds worldwide, prove that the organization might be losing territory, but its influence is far from dead.The latest attack, carried out in a village church in northern France on Tuesday, involved two attackers, who ran into the church, slit the throat of the 85-year old priest and were eventually killed by police commandos.The attackers allegedly screamed “Allahu Akbar” while carrying out the attack, according to a witness at the scene.
One of the two attackers had previously tried to travel to Syria, unsuccessfully, in 2015, but had been caught in Turkey and returned to France. He was detained by French authorities and forced to wear an ankle bracelet with his location on it most of the time. During his unsupervised time, he conducted the church attack.The gruesome killing comes in the wake of other high-profile ISIS-inspired attacks in France, Germany and other locations around the world. An ISIS supporter driving a delivery truck killed 84 people in Nice, France less than two weeks ago. Other attacks in Europe include the mass killings throughout Paris, the Brussels airport, and shootings and bombings in Germany.Meanwhile, the Islamic State is losing much of the territory it once controlled in Iraq and Syria. The terrorist group once held one-third of Syria and one-third of Iraq, and had widespread control over many other regions. Due to the relentless efforts of the international coalition and the fighting power of the Kurdish and Iraqi military forces on the ground, the Islamic State has been pushed back from strongholds, such as Mosul and Fallujah. [caption id="attachment_7221" align="alignnone" width="780"]
Jacques Hamel, the 86-year-old Catholic priest killed in the attack in Saint-Etienne-du-Rouvray, France.[/caption]In the last few months, news sources across the world have reported that the Islamic State’s territory has been shrinking, its resources are drying up, and it is preparing for the “end of the Caliphate.”The Islamic State is having difficulty recruiting fighters to join its jihad in Syria and Iraq, as well. During 2014, when its momentum was at its peak, the organization had over 2000 foreigners joining its ranks each month. In 2016, that dropped to just 200. These numbers do not fully illustrate the power of the Islamic State. While the group may be losing territory in Iraq and Syria, its independently-inspired adherents are killing worldwide. Its devotees have taken down planes in Egypt, shot tourists in Tunisia, killed mosque attendees in Yemen, and killed Americans in California and Florida. They have attacked Europe and Turkey multiple times and are difficult to stop due to the de-centralized nature of their attacks.Al-Qaeda, the group previously held responsible for many global terror attacks, tended toward a command and control structure, where affiliates would have to seek approval for attacks before conducting them. ISIS supporters plan and carry out attacks independently, which makes them infinitely more difficult for authorities to prevent.