Analysts in the intelligence community warned the Islamic State may be preparing to carry out a mass-casualty terrorist attack, rather than encouraging its international supporters to carry out ‘lone-wolf’ attacks.
Increased competition for recruits and prestige with different jihadist factions are being floated as causes for this possible shift in emphasis. Groups such as Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) typically are more focused on larger attacks, such as themassacre at Charlie Hebdo, or plots against airliners. The Islamic State may be attempting to portray itself as capable and powerful in that regard.
Lt-Gen. Mark Hertling told CNN “I think they’re taking a lot of the new recruits that don’t have time to train, who have not been brought up in their systems, and they’re using them to create the type of mass casualty which produces the media attention, which is exactly what they want, that shows they’re still powerful.”
Despite the U.S.-led bombing campaign and ISIS fighting wars on every front, losing thousands of fighters, the Islamic State is still estimated to have the same number of fighters as it did last year (20,000 to 30,000). Its sophisticated recruitment methods have enabled the organization to replenish its forces as fast as their enemies can kill them.