Terrorists Are Exploiting Covid-19 Pandemic: UN Chief

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré (file)
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré (file)

The international community is facing a crisis like no other since the founding of the United Nations 75 years ago, said UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ in his opening remarks at the 2020 virtual Counter-Terrorism Week, in New York on July 6.

He added that Covid-19 has caused severe disruptions to health systems, economies, and local communities around the world — and laid bare profound fragility in the world.

Mr Guterres said it is too early to fully assess the implications of Covid-19 on the terrorism landscape. But the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), Al-Qaida, and their regional affiliates — as well as neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups — seek to exploit divisions, local conflicts, governance failures, and grievances to advance their objectives.

According to the UN chief, ISIL is continuing its efforts to reassert itself in Iraq and Syria, while thousands of foreign terrorist fighters battle in the region, seek to engage in conflict elsewhere, or linger in temporary detention while their family members remain stranded.

The pandemic has also highlighted vulnerabilities to new and emerging forms of terrorism, such as misuse of digital technology, cyberattacks, and bioterrorism.

He added that we have a collective responsibility to facilitate the repatriation of foreign nationals, particularly women and children, from camps in Syria and Iraq, where the risk of Covid-19 is worsening the already dire security and humanitarian conditions.

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The exchange of views and ideas at the event will feed into next year’s Counter-Terrorism Week, including the seventh biennial review of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, the second Conference of Heads of Counter-Terrorism Agencies of Member States. and the inaugural Congress of Victims of Terrorism.

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Rakesh Raman