Kurdistan sees rising threat of home-grown extremism

Security and intelligence forces are exposing sleeper cells of Kurdish youth radicalized by Islamic State ideology in alarming numbers.
A screenshot of a video taken by the Counter-Terrorism Group, a security force controlled by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan political party, shows the arrest of a suspected member of the Islamic State militant group on Aug. 22, 2023. (Photo credit: CTG)

SULAIMANIYA/CHAMCHAMAL - Sleeper cells aligned with the Islamic State (IS) militant group are recruiting young people in Iraqi Kurdistan, raising the prospect of a new security threat that could increase along with stagnating economic opportunity and growing social unrest.

The groups do not yet seem to pose a major danger, with activities focused mainly on localized vandalism and social media propaganda. But security officials say they have also exposed plots to detonate explosives in urban centers like Erbil and Sulaimaniya, highlighting the risk of extremism to trigger fatal violence.

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