Pakistan proves slippery target for Islamic State, say analysts

Islamabad: As investigators probe connections between the Orlando killer and the Islamic State group, analysts say the jihadists are struggling to gain a foothold in one country repeatedly linked to their high-profile attacks: Pakistan.

White House hopeful Donald Trump mentioned Pakistan in a speech this week in New Hampshire as he doubled down on anti-immigration threats in the wake of the bloody rampage in Orlando.

 Pakistan proves slippery target for Islamic State, say analysts

Islamabad officially denies Islamic State has a formal presence in the country. Reuters

Trump cited an attack in California last November, when a Pakistani woman and her US-born husband were praised by IS as "soldiers" of the caliphate after killing 14 people.

Other murky links between Pakistan and Islamic State attacks have also emerged.

Two people were killed in France on Monday by a man claiming allegiance to Islamic State – and known to French intelligence for his role in a Pakistan-linked jihadist group.

In April, Austrian prosecutors said they are investigating a Pakistani held in connection with last November's deadly assault on Paris, also claimed by Islamic State.

Washington earlier this year designated an Islamic State affiliate – the "Khorsan Province" – as a Afghanistan- and Pakistan-based terrorist organisation.

But Islamabad officially denies Islamic State has a formal presence in the country.

Analysts say that while the group's ultra-violent ideology has seen some success as a recruitment tool, IS is still scrabbling for purchase in Pakistan largely due to competition from well established extremist groups already there.

"My sense is that it has had limited success mainly because it has to compete for recruits with indigenous jihadi organisations," said Marvin G Weinbaum, director of the Pakistan Center at the Middle East Institute in Washington DC.

"I don't see it as having the potential to make large-scale territorial gains and existentially threatening Pakistan as a nation," said Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, a research fellow at the US-based Middle East Forum.

"I am also somewhat sceptical of the potential to supplant Al Qaeda and the Taliban," he wrote in an email to AFP.

Attacks claimed by Islamic State in Pakistan are rare, the most significant being a 2015 gun assault on a bus in Karachi that killed 44 people.

However, Pakistani officials told AFP that hundreds of suspects have been rounded up as authorities try to break an domestic Islamic State recruitment network.

"Educated, motivated and unemployed youth are an Islamic State recruitment base in Pakistan. We have busted several recruitment cells here," a senior security official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

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Updated Date: Jun 15, 2016 22:32:58 IST