Terrorism: Islamic State threatens football championships.

by Claudio Bertolotti.

The so-called Islamic State, reigniting fears in Europe after the attack in Moscow, has threatened to launch an attack against the four stadiums where the Champions League quarter-finals will be played starting tonight. Al-Azaim, one of ISIS’s propaganda organs, confirmed these intentions by publishing the image of the four stadiums where the first-leg matches will be held – Parc des Princes in Paris, Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid, Metropolitan also in Madrid, and Emirates in London – accompanied by the caption “Kill them all.”

It is necessary to clarify at the outset: ISIS’s experience, as we knew it in Iraq and Syria, ended in June 2014 with the proclamation of the Caliphate by al-Baghdadi and the establishment of the Islamic State. ISIS no longer exists; in its place is the Islamic State. This is not a minor clarification, as it marks the beginning of the post-territorial era of the movement, which we are observing and suffering from today, both in the West and in the Middle East, as demonstrated by the increasingly manifest strength of this group especially in Syria and Afghanistan.

How serious do you think this threat is? We recall a similar alert on March 30 in Germany.

Firstly, in this case, as in most episodes, it is not the Islamic State itself but its affiliated groups that are calling for the fight. And the current one seems not so much a warning as a call to strike, hence not a direct threat. Also, as the recent history of the Islamic State and its franchised affiliates has shown us, when the group strikes, it does so without warning – effectively exploiting the element of surprise to achieve maximum results. What happened in Russia is confirmation of this. However, and this is the second aspect, consistent with attacks in recent years, attributed to or claimed by the Islamic State, it is the appeal to strike that is captured by individuals, or more rarely by small groups, often disorganized or poorly organized, that constitutes the driving force of the group which, as a rule and for obvious opportunity, only claims the successful ones, a small part, not mentioning the more numerous ones that end in failure.

After the attack in Moscow, these threats, and the arrest yesterday in Rome of a Tajik former ISIS militiaman, do you think there are conditions to understand what ISIS’s strategy is? Is it raising its head? Is it regaining strength?

The Islamic State is indeed raising its head, and it is doing so disruptively and effectively, emotionally bringing us back to the terrible years 2015-2017 when Europe was overwhelmed by a series of disruptive events, in turn evoking the emotions of the al-Qaeda attacks in Europe in 2004, in Madrid and London. Today, it is enough to look at Syria, where it was thought – also due to the media spotlight being directed elsewhere – that the Islamic State had been defeated: this is not the case. On the contrary, the progressive increase in Islamic State attacks, continuous and repeated assaults on prisons to free fighters detained by the Syrian regime, the ability to strike essentially anywhere. It is a very loud alarm bell that anticipates a new wave that is self-sustaining: from the rhetoric of the Taliban victory in Afghanistan, to competition with the Taliban, to the increase in affiliates, individuals, and groups from the Middle East to Southeast Asia, to Europe. Not a new Islamic State, but a phenomenon that is awakening.