ISIS is likely to step up 'the pace and lethality' of its attacks in the months ahead as it seeks to intensify its global campaign of violence, warned the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency director.
Marine Corps Lieutenant General Vincent Stewart emphasised the dangers of the jihadi group's 'emerging branches' in Mali, Tunisia, Somalia, Bangladesh and Indonesia.
He also said he would not be surprised if ISIS extended its operations from the Sinai Peninsula in order to strike the heart of Egypt.
JIhadis in Libya train in the province of Tripoli as ISIS continues to expand in the war-torn country
Stewart said that ISIS's presence in Iraq and Syria was only the start, with the group seemingly looking to expand as part of its global plan.
'Last year, Daesh (ISIS) remained entrenched on Iraqi and Syrian battlefields and expanded globally to Libya, Sinai, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the Caucasus,'
'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.
Stewart's comments came a day before he and other U.S. intelligence officials are set to deliver an annual worldwide threat assessment to Congress.
He also said he would not be surprised if ISIS extended its operations from the Sinai Peninsula in order to strike the heart of Egypt
ISIS militants in Egypt released photos of a secret new training camp in the desert of Sinai
The Sunni Muslim militant group seeks not only to escalate conflict with the West, but also with Islam's minority Shiite branch, just as Shiite extremist groups like Lebanon's Hezbollah are stoking tensions with Sunnis, Stewart said.
'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,' he said.
ISIS has as many as 25,000 fighters in Syria and Iraq, down from a previous estimate of up to 31,000, according to a U.S. intelligence report revealed by the White House last week.
U.S. officials cited factors such as battlefield casualties and desertions to explain the roughly 20 percent decrease in fighters, and said the report showed a U.S.-led campaign to crush Islamic State was making progress.