Islamic State Continues Expansion Into New Areas, Eyes Mecca & Medina

Reuters/Hasan Ali
Reuters/Hasan Ali

The continuing flare-ups on Saudi Arabia’s northern border with Iraq have led some to believe that the Islamic State is set on an eventual push towards the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

Islamic State ‘Caliph’ Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi has frequently called for attacks inside Saudi territory, with hopes of the eventual capture of Mecca and Medina. “It is likely [Baghdadi] realizes that no one can claim to be the Islamic State without controlling the holy sites in and around Mecca and Medina and the wealth that comes with them,” writes Newsweek’s William Young.

Not only has the Islamic State frequently prodded the Saudi border, the terror group also sees Lebanon as a target of prime importance.

The Islamic State has successfully recruited as many as 700 Syrian opposition fighters, whose recruitment was of chief interest due to their strategic location on Syria’s border with Lebanon, according to The Telegraph. The fighters have reportedly swelled on the border, as ISIS has continued to threaten an imminent invasion.

“The moderate [Syrian] rebel groups on the border have collapsed, and their men have joined ISIS,” Ahmed Flity, the deputy mayor of a Lebanese border town told The Telegraph.

In recent days, The Islamic State has reportedly for the first time had cells surface within Afghanistan and Israel.

The Islamic State is now believed to be operating out of Afghanistan as well. Sources in the Afghan National Army (ANA) told the AP last week that the jihadi group is developing a stronghold in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province. The “Islamic State group is active in the south, recruiting fighters, flying black flags and, according to some sources, even battling Taliban militants,” read the AP report.

Meanwhile, Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence services busted an Islamic State cell operating inside its country over the weekend. Seven Arab-Israeli citizens were said to be scooped up by authorities just before they were about to carry out a major terror attack. In early January, the Shin Bet uncovered a Palestinian ISIS cell in Hebron. “They planned to murder an IDF soldier” and blow up “a Palestinian Authority police station,” according to Israeli intelligence.

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