ISLAMABAD - With killing of Islamic State (IS) chief Abubakr al-Baghdadi, the demoralised terror group can step up its activities through its local chapters and affiliated militant groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan to prove its strength and presence, say security experts.

The experts view that though the main leadership of IS (ISIS) is not directly involved in the operations of its local chapters and affiliated groups, yet the terror outfit can ask them to carry out some major activities to give a boost to it which is now in disarray and to prevent division within the group. But all this is connected to only one answer that who will be the successor of Baghdadi, they say.

US President Donald Trump announced on last Sunday that the IS leader died in a raid by US special forces in northwest Syria. In a televised address, he said that Baghdadi killed himself during a raid by blowing up a suicide vest after fleeing into a dead-end tunnel.

Tariq Pervez, a counter terrorism expert and former founding head of the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), told The Nation that IS, also known with its Arab acronym Daesh, was ‘demoralized’ with killing of one of its founding members. He said IS had a decentralised system and Baghdadi was not directly involved in operations of its local chapters. “However, the new leadership can ask the local chapters and affiliated groups to step up terrorist activities to prove its strength,” he said.

Muhammad Amir Rana, a security expert and director at an Islamabad-based think tank, agrees with Pervez that local groups of IS were dispirited and could become active to face the situation. At the same time, he added that there were chances of split within the IS or its fighters could turn towards other militant organization like Al-Qaeda and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) with the killing of its leader.

“The situation is similar that Al-Qaeda was facing after killing of Osama bin Laden in a US Navy Seals operation in May 2011,” he said adding that there were chances that new split groups could emerge out of IS. For militants, the local groups have more appeal than Daesh, he said.

To a question about what would be the impact of this killing on local groups when they are connected with an ideology, Rana said that militants of IS used to re-claim ideology of Al-Qaeda or other groups when they get back to these outfits. The major difference of ideology between Al-Qaeda and Daesh is that the former is affiliated with many militant organizations and does not want to establish its caliphate directly. “On the other hand, IS had been saying that it would directly establish its own caliphate or rule.”

Rana said that IS, in 2018, was found directly involved in five major terrorist attacks including attack on an election rally in Pakistan. This year, IS claimed only one minor terror attack, he added.

“It all depends that who will be successor of Baghdadi as personalities always matter in militant outfits,” said Pervez, also former head of Crime Investigation Department (CIA) Punjab and ex-director general of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA).

He said that the profile of Al-Qaeda was different before and after the killing of Laden as he was very strong, and had strong interactions with the people till he remained the active head of his organization.

Al-Qaeda became weak under the leadership of his successor Ayman al-Zawahiri.

He said that IS had an alliance with local groups including Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, TTP and some dissidents of Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) or Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in Pakistan notwithstanding it announced its new Pakistan chapter in May this year.

“This alliance would not affect,” he said and stressed that the IS group could make fresh efforts to step up its activities.

About ideology, the former NACTA chief said that as long as the group had strong ideology, it would continue to attract new recruits and the group would remain alive. He said funding to the group might affect with Baghdadi’s death as some of his followers might not provide same help to incoming IS chief.