Islamic State shifts focus to ‘soft civilian’ targets

A UNITED States academic says Russia's involvement in the war in Syria has forced Islamic State to shift its focus to "soft civilian" targets.

Writing in The Conversation, Professor Simon Reich from Rutgers University says the casualties caused by Russia's bombing raids has depleted IS troop numbers.

He said that IS leaders understand that with the US on one side and the characteristically merciless Russians on the other, time is running out.

"It is one thing to take on one of them. It is quite another to take on both," Professor Reich said.

"They can replenish their forces with raw new recruits. But they probably can't do it fast enough to hold off all sides."

So IS needed a new recruiting campaign by a change in tactics - war by terror.

"The new tactic involves soft civilian targets. They involve country nationals and foreign recruits," he said.

"The enemy is everywhere and nowhere. It is a classic terrorist response."

Attacks like Paris show potential recruits that with limited training they can still play a crucial role as a martyr.

"After all, if you are going to die as a martyr, you don't want to do so by the side of the road in the middle of the desert," he said.

"You want to do so on the streets of Paris where everyone will know who you were and what you did."

Prof Reich said killing civilians at home in Europe was to provoke a debate about these countries' involvement in Syria and Iraq.

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