The so-called Islamic State (IS) group is "driving" the UK's terror threat while global defences have become sidetracked by the coronavirus pandemic, a report has found.
The extremist group lost its physical territory in the Middle East in March last year, but the UK Government’s report, entitled 'Regional Threat Outlook: Daesh, Iraq and Syria', says it is taking advantage of COVID-hit forces and a lower profile.
Since the fall of its caliphate last year, when the liberation of the last Daesh-held territory was announced, the group is said to have been pushed to ungoverned areas, orchestrating fewer and "less sophisticated" attacks than before.
However, the report says IS will "almost certainly" look to take advantage of unstable areas in order to take control and rebuild a presence.
The UK has been part of the US-led mission against IS in the form of Operation Shader since 2014 in Iraq and 2015 in Syria.
Op Shader continues with IS not being completely defeated as an organisation.
The UK’s terror threat level was moved from 'substantial' to 'severe' as a precaution last month, following four terror attacks in the UK and other incidents in Austria and France "inspired by Islamist terrorism" throughout the year.
WATCH: Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace speaks to Forces News about the threats from ISIS.
Speaking to Forces News, the Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: "The threats that we see from ISIS, not only are in Syria, but they are spreading elsewhere. You see them in Africa, you see it in Afghanistan.
"Many of the attacks inspired into Europe are coming from either still Syria or, indeed, other parts of the world now."
When asked how concerned the UK should be about the ISIS threat to it, Mr Wallace responded: "We should definitely be concerned, because what ISIS showed is that they can use the internet to inspire people at home.
"Even if people had never been out to fight, or even if people had never been trained as a terrorist, ISIS have used social media and propaganda to brainwash many people to actually take really horrendous actions on our streets, so we should be very, very concerned."
Influencing others to carry out its attacks on the UK, IS "play an important role in driving" this threat, the Defence Intelligence report said.
In Iraq, the national security forces fighting the group are said to have been restricted by COVID-19, while Iran uses its influence over Shia Militia Groups to expel Western forces in the region, "including through violent means".
"Counter-Daesh operations in Syria remain a low priority for the Syrian/Russian/Iranian Forces", below the threat from competitive terror groups associated with al-Qaeda, the report added.
No longer operating with the same notoriety in local areas, the report suggests IS has benefited from a "freedom of movement" in Syria, resulting in desert training camps and a persistent global impact.
Cover image: Islamic State militants firing AK-47 rifles in 2015 (Picture: PA).