Make Ramazan ‘a month of pain for infidels everywhere’, reportedly called a spokesman for the Islamic State at the advent of the holy month. And that has been done.
After deadly attacks in Istanbul, Dhaka and Baghdad the volunteers of Al-Baghdadi’s caliphate, struck three cities across Saudi Arabia. Casualties in these apparently co-ordinated attacks were not many as compared to others -six people, including suicide bombers, were killed.
But their criticality lies in the fact that one of these attacks took place close to the Masjid-i-Nabawi in Madinah at the time of breaking the fast. The day before, the terrorists had exploded a car-bomb in Baghdad which killed some 200 Eid shoppers.
But for the timely arrest of a wannabe suicide-bomber and his handlers the Kuwait City might have been yet another casualty of an Islamic State-inspired attack. In the kingdom, the prime targets of terrorists in the past had been Shia mosques and security posts.
But this time, the target in Jeddah was said to be the US consulate – though some insist the explosion was closer to a mosque than the consulate. And the bomber, according to a spokesman for the interior ministry, was not a Saudi national, but a “resident foreigner”, possibly a Pakistani. In the eastern city of Qatif, a Shia-majority city, there were possibly two explosions but there were no casualties excepting what is believed to be of the suicide-bomber.
Not that the kingdom had been spared in the past, there had been attacks on security checkposts and Shia mosques, but mostly as a fallout of the civil war in Yemen.
But, apparently, the recent spike in attacks across the globe is the Islamic State’s reaction to a series of its debacles in territories which were in control of the “caliphate”. Nearly 1200 people outside of Iraq and Syria have been killed in the Islamic State-orchestrated attacks.
And this figure may go up dramatically now that the Islamic State finds it increasingly difficult to hold on to the vast swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria.
Over the last few months, it has lost half of its territory in Iraq and 20 percent in Syria, and many key places in the two countries. If its retreat from Fallujah is any measure, it may lose more in the coming weeks and months.
These setbacks tend to evolve it from a land-bound state to a stateless universal ideology, like its older affiliate al Qaeda. Given, that it enjoys vast number of technology savvy adherents it can call on clandestine terrorist cells almost all over the Muslim world and many places elsewhere.
The Saudi authorities may be right in insisting that the latest acts of carnage are the product of foreigners. But that doesn’t seem to be the case elsewhere such as Bangladesh, Turkey or other countries.
In fact, in there it were the local extremist outfits, that have pledged allegiance to Al-Baghdadi’s caliphate, and committed to devising their own particular designs and devices to spell disaster when called upon by the leadership.
Justifiably then, there is the need to not only defeating the Islamic State on the ground, but also in the minds of people. And that is going to be no easy task; with connectivity as rampant as we have and social media calling the shots, as it does, the dimensions of the battlefield have dramatically changed.
But that said, one would still insist on branding the Islamic State a failed mission. It may kill many more but it cannot win the hearts and minds of people. Having murdered some 200 men, women and children in one strike, can the Islamic State’s leadership hope to win over the people of Baghdad? Never.