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Groups such as Isis plan to exploit pandemic, but even it has acknowledged danger posed by virus

Islamic extremists hope to exploit the Covid-19 pandemic to launch new attacks, motivate followers and reinforce their credentials as alternative rulers of swaths of unstable countries across the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

But the responses of different extremist groups have differed. While Islamic State has told its members to launch attacks against weakened and distracted western nations, the Taliban have released images of its public health teams, for example.

Experts say the reaction to the pandemic has also evolved within extremist organisations, as its scale and threat has become better known.

Initially, Isis gloated over Covid-19 in its magazine, al-Naba, describing the virus as a punishment for Crusader nations, and calling for strikes against the west as it reeled from the pandemic. However, more recent editions of the publication have carried lengthy articles saying it would be wrong for Muslims to believe they would be spared by the disease.

There are signs elsewhere that the militaries of the US, Britain and other countries are also pulling back because of the virus, leaving a possible opening for the extremists.

In March, the US Africa Command cancelled two major exercises with African allies for force protection considerations. African military units, already stretched thin, are likely to take protective measures as the virus threatens their ranks.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/16/opportunity-or-threat-how-islamic-extremists-reacting-coronavirus