- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The head of the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency predicted Monday that the Islamic State terrorist group is likely to step up the “pace and lethality” of its attacks in the coming months as it moves to increase its reach outside its home base of Iraq and Syria.

Speaking at a security conference, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart pointed to the terror group’s expanding influence in Mali, Tunisia, Somalia, Bangladesh and Indonesia and said he believed the Islamic State could extend its operations deeper into Egypt as well.

“Last year, Daesh remained entrenched on Iraqi and Syrian battlefields and expanded globally to Libya, Sinai, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the Caucasus,” Lt. Gen. Stewart said, using a derisive Arabic acronym for the Islamic State, Reuters reported.

“Daesh is likely to increase the pace and lethality of its transnational attacks because it seeks to unleash violent actions and to provoke a harsh reaction from the West, thereby feeding its distorted narrative” of a Western war against Islam, he said.

The Sunni Muslim militant group’s expanding influence in Muslim countries is a sign of its increasing focus on escalating conflict with Islam’s minority Shiite branch as well as the West.

“These threats are exacerbated by the security challenges of the Middle East, which is now facing one of the most dangerous and unpredictable periods in the last decade,” Lt. Gen. Stewart said, according to Reuters.

His comments came a day before he and other U.S. intelligence officials are set to deliver an annual worldwide threat assessment to Congress.

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