The Islamic State: Down But Not Out

The caliphate may have crumbled, but digital footprints point to a resurgent terror organization.

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Over the past several months, ISIL has seen its self-proclaimed caliphate in Iraq and Syria collapse. U.S.-backed forces captured its former capital Raqqa last October. The terrorist organization has been forced to return to its roots as an underground insurgency.  

Though degraded and on the run, there are signs that ISIL is reasserting itself. Predata signals that capture interest in publicly available web pages related to ISIL all spiked in unison this month. These signals reflect increased chatter in multiple languages on different aspects of the group.

For instance, a signal capturing general international and Arabic interest in ISIL hit a three-month high in mid-April.

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Around the same time, online attention to explosives agents preferred by ISIL militants spiked in languages ranging from German to Arabic to Malay. (The two signals below show interest in European and Southeast Asian languages).

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Online attention to ISIL leaders showed similar upticks across continents. Chatter related to commanders and high profile figures active in Europe, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia all increased.

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The increase in chatter comes amid real-world displays of resurgence. Earlier this month, ISIL militants publicly renewed their bay'ah (oath of allegiance) to self-styled caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi for the first time since the fall of Mosul last July. Last week, the group declared "war" on upcoming Iraqi elections and claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Kabul that killed 57 at a voter registration center.