Islamic State restructures regional branches in Syria, Iraq

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New York, July 24 (IANS) The Islamic State (IS) has made changes to the way it refers to its regional branches in Syria and Iraq, in a likely indication that the outfit has made internal structural changes after losing territory in 2017.

The Islamic State dropped the term “Wilayah”, meaning official branch or “province”, to refer to areas within Syria and Iraq which had previously held the status of separate “provinces” — such as Damascus, Raqqa, Kirkuk and northern Baghdad, BBC citing SITI reported.

The term “Wilayah” is now being used to describe the larger territories of Syria and Iraq — the “Wilayah of Sham (Syria)” and the “Wilayah of Iraq”, regional designations that the IS had not used before.

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The changes were first spotted in the latest edition of the group’s weekly Arabic-language newspaper al-Naba on July 20. But there was no fanfare and the IS made no announcement of the changes.

Since then, claims of attacks within Syria and Iraq have been attributed to “Wilayah of Sham” or “Wilayah of Iraq”.

In a video released by the IS in July 2016, the group set out the administrative structure of what it termed as caliphate. It said the Wilayat (plural of Wilayah) were established following the group’s expansion in order to “create effective ways to administer and supervise its territory”.

The report said that the latest changes to the official status of the regions reflected a restructuring following territorial setbacks in 2017, with each of the regions within Syria and Iraq no longer requiring its own governor or ministry offices.

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It was not clear whether countries such as Libya, Yemen or Saudi Arabia underwent a similar restructuring process.

The group did, however, continue to refer to its Egypt branch as the “Wilayah of Sinai” and for the first time described its affiliate in Southeast Asia as a Wilayah — effectively upgrading its status, possibly as compensation for the downgrading of regions in Syria and Iraq.

–IANS

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