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ISIS Attacks Are On Rise in Syria Despite Russian Airstrikes

The Russians are playing Whack-A-Mole with ISIS — they hit the murderous militants in Iraq and the fanatics pop up in Syria.

So says the IHS Jane's Terrorism and Insurgency Center, which has done a tally of ISIS attacks in 2015 since Moscow began bombing the militants.

Image: Russian airsrike in Syria
A handout frame grab taken from a video footage made available on the official website of the Russian Defense Ministry on Oct. 5, 2015. RUSSIAN DEFENCE MINISTRY PRESS SERVICE / via EPA

"Following the start of airstrikes and Russian intervention in September 2015, the number of Islamic State attacks in Iraq declined in the last quarter of the year, however, the number of attacks in Syria increased," said Matthew Henman, who heads the Jane's center.

"This is somewhat a consequence of the growing pressure the Islamic State has come under in Iraq," he added. "Whereas in Syria the group has had more room to maneuver and, at least for the time being, retained the ability to relocate fighters between the different front lines."

Hoping to make gains in Syria, ISIS has refocused on the cities of Homs and Deir ez Zour and moved forces away from key areas in Iraq that the Russians have been bombing, Henman said.

In Iraq, ISIS is being pinned back and more on the defensive as a result of the Russian airstrikes, he said.

Plus, ISIS is also under increased pressure in Iraq from the government security forces there as well as the Kurish and Shia militia, Henman said.

So while ISIS has been launching fewer attacks on Iraqi territory, they are more ferocious. And the numbers compiled by IHS Jane's appear to bear that out:

Last year, from Oct. 1 to Dec. 31, ISIS launched 250 attacks in Iraq that claimed 999 lives. During the same time period, ISIS staged 524 attacks in Syria that left 506 dead.

Meanwhile, an apparent consequence of the stepped-up Russian bombing raids is that ISIS stepped-up attacks beyond the borders of their so-called caliphate during the last quarter of 2015 — most notably the bloody massacres in Paris and Beirut, and a series of attacks in Bangladesh.

"They are attacking outside the caliphate in response to airstrikes," Henman said.

Their aim, Henman said, is "to prove the group remains active despite the airstrikes and also capable of directly punishing those attacking the caliphate."